How Do Scott Fitzgerald and Hunter S. Thompson portray the villain in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘the Great Gatsby’?
In The Great Gatsby and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Scott Fitzgerald and Hunter S. Thompson use a villain as contrast to represent the ugly side of ‘the American Dream’. The two novels are set in different time periods and so the severity of each character’s actions and the effect they have differ in relation to the environment they are in. However in both there is a consistent theme of greed and self indulgence which is portrayed as a predominant common trait in the villains. The comparison between these two characters arises in the extent to which they exploit wealth and their surroundings to distort the freedom aspired to in the American Dream.
In The Great Gatsby it can be considered that the villain is Tom Buchanan. He is the embodiment of greed, selfishness and self indulgence and represented as expressing traits characteristic of what would be considered a villain during the time Gatsby was written. To a modern day reader Tom can be regarded as racist when he makes comments such as “there are great things happening in Germany at the moment”. This adds to his villainous portrayal. Similarly to Dr Gonzo, Tom is in a powerful position amongst his fellow characters and abuses this status to manipulate his peers as a way of getting what he wants. Dr Gonzo is aware of the susceptibility of his friend, Raoul, and picks on this weakness by tempting him towards a life consisting of drugs, alcohol, over indulgence and extremely limited morals. He is presented as the ‘devil’ on Raoul’s shoulder, always pushing him to go too far and overstep the mark. He manipulates him with the frequent repetition “as your attorney I strongly suggest…” obviously a tested and proved theory that has worked in the past and so is likely to work again. This can be seen as Thompson portraying Gonzo’s awareness of Raoul’s submissive nature and weakness to succumb to a life of grotesque self indulgence; and also his unfailing ability to manipulate this.
Tom Buchanan is presented as a hypocritical bully, and in some respects Dr Gonzo can also be seen as one. Tom and Daisy can be likened to Raoul and Dr Gonzo, when Nick says that they leave other people to pay for the consequences of their actions. Raoul and Gonzo leave a path of destruction everywhere they go, and it can be argued, so do Tom and Daisy. An example of this the death of Myrtle Wilson which Daisy without hesitation allows Gatsby to take the blame for, an event which subsequently results in his death. Tom’s social attitude is based around racism and sexism; it is this total disregard and ignorance for everyone around him that likens him most to Dr Gonzo. Gonzo does as he pleases whenever he pleases and only ever considers himself; it could be argued that Gonzo’s villainous nature is not entirely his own doing, as we never see him without his personality or thought processes under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Gonzo can evoke pity in the reader, Thompson creates a sense that Gonzo is out of control and cannot help the things he does. Gonzo and Raoul rarely seem to be enjoying their intoxicated state; it seems to be something that causes them a lot of anxiety and discomfort, and yet Thompson still presents this state of being as a preferable alternative to sobriety. It is for this reason we can be led to assume that there is an underlying cause for Gonzo’s behaviour; that something has happened to make him the way he is, as a way of avoiding whatever underlying problems he may have. The element of Gonzo perhaps not being evil through and through is represented in rare moments in which Thompson shows him as having at least a shred of a conscience. Such as when he asks Raoul to throw the radio in the bath with him and is horrified to discover that Raoul would actually do it “You bastard! You’d do that wouldn’t you?” This is an obvious violation of Gonzo’s moral code, which before this point had been near enough non existent. Thompson uses this incident to show Gonzo’s awareness of the difference between right and wrong, even if it is quite unconventional at times. It is from this interpretation that it can be assumed Tom Buchanan is a true villain. He seems to be aware of what he is doing at all times yet shows little or no remorse for his actions; whereas Dr Gonzo is just an intoxicated bully. Based on his occupation, Gonzo is evidently educated and intelligent. Ironically, he could be using this to accomplish everything the American Dream originally aspired to. However he is instead abusing this, as a method of manipulation and persuasion to fulfil his selfish desires. Arguably, perhaps this is what the American Dream has become in modern society since the times of Gatsby. So it is difficult to say whether this makes him a villain or a hero.