Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

by Hunter S. Thompson

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What are the literary devices used in the bookFear and Loathing in Las Vegas?

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Literary devices abound in this zany, comic novel. In it, Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, go on a drug- and booze-saturated trip to Las Vegas. Duke has been hired to cover a Las Vegas motorcycle race for a sports magazine. Thompson's prose captures the wild drug- and alcohol-fueled feelings that he and Gonzo experience. A few literary devices follow:

Too weird to live, too rare to die!

This is an example of antithesis, in which two opposites are put together. Here, "live" is juxtaposed against "die."

One of the many allusions in the novel appears in the preface, a quote from Samuel Johnson, and an apt observation on the Las Vegas trip:

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

Thompson also uses aphorisms, perhaps a revisionist poke at the morality of Johnson's eighteenth century world with a 1960s twist:

In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.

Thompson uses imagery and comparison to comic effect. For example, he likens a large bar in a Las Vegas hotel to what the US might look like all over if the Nazis had won the war, painting a picture of the scene:

The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos . . . but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange County-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space.

He also uses hyperbole or exaggeration (though with Thompson part of the humor comes from not knowing if he really is exaggerating):

We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers . . . and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

In a famous passage, Thompson muses in retrospect on the high point of the hippie movement. He uses the metaphor of riding a wave to describe the feeling of exhilaration:

Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave

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Hunter Thompson uses many literary devices throughout the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His use of metaphor and simile for description purposes is shown in many places throughout the tale. He describes the difficulty covering the race as being "like trying to keep track of a swimming meet in an Olympic sized pool filled with talcum powder instead of water." Describing the effects of ether he states, "it makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel".

Thompson also uses vast amounts of imagery in this story. Look at his descriptions of Vegas, the race, the hotels, the casinos, etc. There are also the constant allusions to Horatio Alger and the "American Dream". Alger wrote rags to riches stories about characters that came from poverty and through hard work and determination became successful. Thompson makes many allusions to this for multiple purposes throughout the story.

There is also a great deal of symbolism in the novel. Las Vegas itself is a symbol of the new American Dream, juxtaposing that of the Horatio Alger storyline. It is used to show how hard work and determination have nothing to do with success in the new America. You place your bet and hope you get lucky. It is also symbolic of American excess. 

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