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
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. . .
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.