Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Summary and Analysis of Part II: Chapters 1-4


Chapter 1

Outside of Baker, Duke has a sudden impulse to kill something. He pulls over and shoots the .357 Magnum into the desert, hoping to strike an iguana. He suddenly realizes how bad this could look to a passing police officer, and slips into a paranoid reverie about the Highway Patrol finding the drugs in his car.

When he reaches the outskirts of Las Vegas, Duke stops to buy tequila, whiskey, and ether. He is concerned that the cashier will question him, but Duke makes the purchase without any problems. On the way out of the store, he steals a magazine but throws it away after reading an article about a man who pulled out his own eyeballs while using PCP.

Chapter 2

Duke travels to the Las Vegas airport to pick up his attorney. While he is waiting, he abandons the red car in the parking lot and picks up the white Cadillac that Rolling Stone has reserved for him. Duke later realizes that his credit card had just been canceled when he rented the car, but the rental agency didn’t realize it in time to prevent him from leaving with it.

Duke decides to check into the hotel without picking up his attorney so he can rest. When he arrives at the Flamingo, the lobby is filled with around 200 police officers who are staying there for the conference, and the sight makes Duke deeply nervous. As he waits in line to check in, he notices that the police officer ahead of him is in a bitter argument with the receptionist. Because the officer has arrived late, he is being transferred from the Flamingo to the Moonlight Motel, a change of plans that has upset both the policeman and his wife. Duke is very amused to see a cop on the wrong side of a power struggle for once, but eventually he tires of listening to them argue and edges past the cop to check in to his room. The clerk serves him immediately because he has credit cards and a nice car. Duke smiles at the cop and walks to his room, feeling satisfied.

Chapter 3

Duke walks to his room, which seems to take twenty minutes because the Flamingo is such a large hotel. As he walks, he ponders his assignment. He is anxious because of the obvious risks of attending a police conference as a self-appointed representative of “the drug culture” (110).

When Duke finally arrives in room 1150, he finds his attorney about to have sex with Lucy, a woman whom he appears to have picked up on the flight to Las Vegas. Lucy is angry about the interruption and Duke reaches for his gun to shoot her. Duke's attorney manages to defuse the situation by pointing out Lucy’s mediocre drawings of Barbra Streisand, of which there are forty or fifty in the hotel room. Lucy has come to Las Vegas to present Streisand with her artwork.

Duke and his attorney leave Lucy in the room to get their luggage out of the Cadillac. On the way downstairs, Duke learns that his attorney met Lucy at the Los Angeles airport and gave her acid. Lucy is from Montana and has never had a drink before, let alone used LSD. Duke is initially thrilled and wants to pimp Lucy out for money. This suggestion infuriates his attorney, and Duke then begins to worry that Lucy will be upset with them when she comes down from the acid trip. After briefly entertaining the idea of murdering her, the men decide to send her to another hotel and hope she does not remember them.

Chapter 4

When the men return to their room at the Flamingo, they discover that Lucy has left them a phone message. They ignore it, but the operator calls back to tell them that Lucy sounded extremely disturbed when she left the message. Duke reassures the operator that everything is fine and that he and his attorney will take care of Lucy. The attorney explains that he had to lie to Lucy to get her to the other hotel; he told her that he and Duke were going to fight a duel over her out in the desert. Duke and his attorney begin to panic at the prospect of Lucy reporting them to the authorities for drugging and taking advantage of her.


Duke’s violent impulses become even more prominent in this section of the novel. On multiple occasions, we see that he reflexively turns to violence when he is unsure how to handle a situation. The first example of this in Part II occurs when he pulls over in the desert to shoot iguanas. Later, he proposes pimping Lucy out as a prostitute and then murdering her when he realizes that she might report his attorney to the police for giving her LSD.

Duke’s violent tendencies are ironic because he criticizes violence when the police or the military are perpetrating it. He seems to be truly disturbed by the crime articles he reads in the newspaper and the reports about the Vietnam War he sees on television. In Chapter 1, he discards a magazine after reading about a man who clawed out his own eyes while using PCP, and he acts deeply agitated about the Vietnam War while speaking to the hotel operator on the phone. Yet despite this disgust, Duke still has frequent violent impulses of his own. Although Thompson often plays Duke’s hypocrisy for laughs, the contradiction hints at the author’s dark, misanthropic worldview. All of the characters in Thompson’s work have a violent side regardless of whether they self-identify as part of the counterculture or the ‘establishment’.

However, it is important to note that while Duke’s first impulse is often to commit acts of horrific violence, he rarely follows through on this reflex; his attorney frequently puts him into his place. Their rapport could be read as a microcosmic representation of the difference between Duke and the violent people and institutions he criticizes. While he is able to control violent impulses, American society embraces and institutionalizes them. This is one component of Thompson’s wide-ranging critique of post-‘60s American culture.

Although Fear and Loathing mostly focuses on the travels of Duke and his attorney, they occasionally encounter other characters that represent the best and worst of American society. There are certain parallels between the innocent Lucy and the hitchhiker from Part I. Both characters seem to embrace left-wing ideals: the hitchhiker vehemently denies that he is a racist, and Lucy proves willing to experiment with drugs the first chance she gets. However, they are not initiated members of the counterculture in the same way that Duke and his attorney are. Both Lucy and the hitchhiker express terror and anger - or ‘fear and loathing’ - when they witness the ugly side of the men’s drug use. These characters can be read as symbols of the way that the idealistic youth culture of the 1960s was corrupted by hedonism and drug use.

Duke continues to express extreme resentment toward law enforcement in this chapter. He views the narcotics assignment as a chance to infiltrate the ‘pig’ establishment, but he cannot conceal his disgust for the police officers on whom he is to report. Ralph Steadman’s illustrations in this section reinforce Duke’s scathing description of the police officers; his grotesque imagery corresponds directly to the text.