The American Dream in the Works of John Steinbeck and Hunter S. Thompson

1314 Words 6 Pages
Two writers who come quickly to my mind whenever I hear or see images of American patriotism are John Steinbeck and Hunter S. Thompson. As different as these two men are, their writing is similar in that the American Dream constantly fails their characters. Both seek to define America and the American Dream, however, it remains seemingly elusive, and both writers fail to find it.
I choose Steinbeck and Thompson because, to me, their writing styles are the same. They have the same lust for language and powerful writing. Their subjects are contemporary; they are not necessarily moral or upright, but are average people. Both view the world in the same sad way, that people are as easily led to beauty as deceit, joy to sorrow and life to
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Personal journalism is only worth reading if something exciting or out of the ordinary happens, and takes a certain touch. (As human beings, we tend to go for the exciting. In Travels, Steinbeck may as well have printed how many times he changed his underwear). Travels is a failure all in itself, as Steinbeck throws his characteristic prose out the window.
Thompson also goes on the road. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, while a smashing success, is a two-fold failure. First, Thompson and his attorney (Oscar Zeta Acosta; the attorney is never named, except, some think, in the urgent speed letter as Dr. Gonzo) also fail to find the American Dream. With all its opportunities for sex, drugs, and money, they simply can't find it, no matter how hard they try. The second failure is one on part of Thompson; he edited the manuscript at least five or six times, destroying his goal of "buying a big fat red notebook and writing things basically as they happened". The book is not true gonzo journalism, as it had been tainted by editing as well as Acosta's threats of libel.
Perhaps the heart of the American Dream for these two writers is Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Thompson's Hell's Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Grapes was written near the end of the Great Depression and published in 1939. Interestingly enough, Steinbeck almost failed…