Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The White Whale Symbol Icon

The White Whale is the fancy Cadillac Duke and Gonzo rent after they abandon the Great Red Shark, and while it symbolizes the American Dream as well, it also represents wealth and luxury, and therefore status. The White Whale is a beautiful car; everything is automatic, and the dashboard is full of “esoteric lights and dials” that Duke doesn’t understand. Duke doesn’t have to understand, however, because it is clear to him that the Cadillac is “a superior automobile.” Duke is given undue respect and special treatment because he is driving such a nice car, and he even gets into the Flamingo Hotel with only a canceled credit card because the White Whale is sitting at the curb. Duke is a drunken, drug-addled mess with ripped clothes and a two-day beard, but the Cadillac makes him appear rich and powerful, and he is treated as such.

The White Whale underscores America’s classist society. Duke is respected only because he is presumed to be wealthy, which obviously isn’t the case, but this respect comes at the expense of others. Duke is given a room at the Flamingo, but the man in front of him is turned away—even though he has already paid for his room. Duke’s special treatment emphasizes how the lower class is marginalized in society by the rich and powerful, making the American Dream even more difficult to obtain. Of course, Duke drag also races the Cadillac, dangerously overinflates the tires, and even “drives it into Lake Mead on a water test,” and by the time he leaves it in the parking lot at the airport, it is trashed just like the Chevy. The Whale’s convertible top is stuck half down and the engine is making awful sounds. “Every circuit in the car is totally fucked,” Duke says. Like the American Dream the car symbolizes, the White Whale is dead.

The White Whale Quotes in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas quotes below all refer to the symbol of The White Whale. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
American Culture and Counterculture Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas published in 1998.
Part 1, Chapter 12 Quotes

Yes, I would go back to Vegas. Slip the Kid and confound the CHP by moving East again, instead of West. This would be the shrewdest move of my life. Back to Vegas and sign up for the Drugs and Narcotics conference; me and a thousand pigs. Why not? Move confidently into their midst. Register at the Flamingo and have the White Caddy sent over at once. Do it right; remember Horatio Alger. . .

Related Characters: Raoul Duke (speaker), The Hitchhiker
Related Symbols: The White Whale
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

They called up the white Coupe de Ville at once. Everything was automatic. I could sit in the red-leather driver’s seat and make every inch of the car jump, by touching the proper buttons. It was a wonderful machine: Ten grand worth of gimmicks and high-priced Special Effects. The rear windows leaped up with a touch, like frogs in a dynamite pond. The white canvas top ran up and down like a rollercoaster. The dashboard was full of esoteric lights & dials & meters that I would never understand—but there was no doubt in my mind that I was into a superior machine.

Related Characters: Raoul Duke (speaker)
Related Symbols: The White Whale
Page Number: 104-5
Explanation and Analysis:
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The White Whale Symbol Timeline in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The timeline below shows where the symbol The White Whale appears in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One, Chapter 10: Western Union Intervenes: A Warning from Mr. Heem…New Assignment from the Sports Desk and a Savage Invitation from the Police
The American Dream Theme Icon
Drugs and American Society  Theme Icon
...Drugs. There is a room reserved for him at the Flamingo along with a white Cadillac convertible. (full context)
Part One, Chapter 12: Hellish Speed…Grappling with the California Highway Patrol…Mana a Mana on Highway 81
American Culture and Counterculture Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Drugs and American Society  Theme Icon
...back to Vegas is exactly what he will do. “Register at the Flamingo and have the White Caddy sent over at once. Do it right,” Duke thinks, “remember Horatio Alger.” The bartender approaches... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 2: Another Day, Another Convertible…& Another Hotel Full of Cops
The American Dream Theme Icon
Drugs and American Society  Theme Icon
...then decides to go to the car rental counter to trade the Chevy for the Cadillac. “This goddamn Chevy has caused me a lot of trouble,” Duke tells the car agency... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
The Cadillac is completely automatic. Everything opens or goes up and down with just the touch of... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
...the bellhop approaches and takes his bag. “The rest is out there in that white Cadillac convertible,” Duke says, motioning to the car outside. “Don’t worry about a thing, sir. Just... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 3: Savage Lucy…‘Teeth Like Baseballs, Eyes Like Jellied Fire’
The American Dream Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...where Gonzo gets Lucy out of the car, telling her that they are trading the Cadillac for a Mercedes. Gonzo walks inside with Lucy but comes out alone and gets into... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 8: Back Door Beauty…& Finally a Bit of Serious Drag Racing on the Strip
American Culture and Counterculture Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Drugs and American Society  Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...night, and by midnight, he decides he wants coffee. Driving down the Strip, Duke pulls the White Whale up next to a Ford with Oklahoma plates. “Hey there!” Gonzo yells. “You folks want... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 13: End of the Road…Death of the Whale…Soaking Sweats in the Airport
The American Dream Theme Icon
Drugs and American Society  Theme Icon
Duke drives the White Whale back to the Flamingo to get his luggage, and then he heads to the airport.... (full context)
American Culture and Counterculture Theme Icon
Duke arrives at the airport VIP parking lot and turns the White Whale over to a shocked parking attendant. “Don’t worry,” Duke says. “I’m insured.” He walks into... (full context)