Jeffrey J. Horvath '15, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2015




As a professional journalist Hunter S. Thompson made it his mission to expose and defy structures of American society which he believed inhibited the exercise of personal freedom and, consequently, made realizing the “American Dream” impossible. Through his unique voice and style of literary nonfiction known as “Gonzo Journalism” Thompson is able to debunk the myth of the American Dream by attacking false conceptions of it, thereby highlighting the failures of both these conceptions and the structures of society, politics, class, and authority which give rise to them. This thesis traces the genesis of Gonzo Journalism’s formal features and themes through Thompson’s adolescence and early professional career, ultimately arriving at a critical investigation of the finished product as a literary style of nonfiction which defies the conventional demands of objective journalism and therefore allows for a more personal, creative, and brutal social commentary. In this sense, Gonzo Journalism represents a form of “literary freedom” that is reflective of the “personal freedom” the American Dream necessitates. Through critical exegesis of Thompson’s most famous pieces of Gonzo Journalism, including but not limited to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, and “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” this thesis explores the relationship between personal freedom, literary freedom, and the American Dream motif in Thompson’s literary nonfiction. Ultimately I contend that Gonzo Journalism represents a means by which Thompson can both live the American Dream and identify, describe, and decry the societal failures which prevent others from doing so.


English Honors Thesis