Bonfire of the Vanities

I recently read the book Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Mr. Wolfe holds a
doctorate in American Studies from Yale University and is the author of many non fiction
books such as The Right Stuff, In Our Time, and Clutter and Vine. Bonfire of the Vanities
was his first fiction work. This book was published by Bantam Books Inc. and was
copyrighted in 1987.
I believe the theme of this book to be true to oneself and trust no one but oneself.
It is show many times in this book that people will go below their morals simply for
personal advancement. It is also shown that human nature allows for many changes of
heart, in short, double crossing.
The main character in this book is Sherman McCoy. Sherman begins the story as a
wealthy bonds salesmen living in a $3,200,000 apartment on Park Avenue. Sherman
refers to himself as “Master of the Universe” many times throughout the story. This
shows his feelings of superiority over the rest of the human race. Sherman was “well
brought up and from all the right schools”. His father is a retired, wealthy, successful
businessman that is well respected throughout the world. Sherman’s wife, Judy, is
somewhat cool too him. She is very extravagant and gives the impression that she may be
in the marriage simply for the money. Their daughter Campbell is six when the story
begins and is very innocent to the ways of the world. Maria Ruskin is a young woman of
about thirty who is married to Arthur Ruskin, a wealthy man of about sixty. Maria and
Sherman are in the process of a drawn out affair when the story begins.
This book tells about the events that occur in New York City over the course of a
year. This story begins when Sherman and Maria go out on a date one evening and end
up lost in the Bronx. As they are coming through a run-down neighborhood in
Sherman’s black Mercedes, two African-American teenage boys approach the car.
Sherman gets out, to move some boxes that were obstructing their way. The boys began
talking and Sherman gets the impression that they may rob him. He throws a tire that is
laying at the side of the road at the boys, then gets in the car. Maria has taken it upon
herself to drive, and as she is pulling away, she hits one of the boys. They drive away
anxiously and debate on what to do next. Maria convinces Sherman that going to the
police is a bad idea and that they should just keep quiet. They are not even entirely sure of
what happened. So time passes, and soon the boy comes forward. The issue immediately
turns into a racial dispute. The boy is comatose throughout most of the story. Eventually,
the police track Sherman down and he agrees to turn himself in quietly. His lawyer
arranges for him to be taken away without a large scene. However, his lawyer is double
crossed and Sherman ends up in the middle of a three ring circus. Things proceed and
Sherman’s wife completely rejects him, his friends do not speak to him, and Maria is no
where to be found. Sherman’s case is dismissed until the following year, when the young
man dies. He is now up on manslaughter charges. This illustrates how one event can
leave you without friends, family, or even hope.
This book relates to my life in that I too have been double crossed and taken for
granted. Often times, people are your friends when you are the most popular, or win an
award. But later, when you need them the most, they are gone. These event may not be
happy, but they have helped me to realize who my true friends really are. Sherman
experiences this many times in his life. I have also come to realize that the one friend you
should always have is yourself. If you cannot stand to be friends with yourself, then it
would be surely impossible for anyone else to be your friend.
This book is similar to another book that I have read called A Cry in the Night by
Mary Higgins Clark. In this book a young woman is betrayed by her husband and
everyone around her. However, in A Cry in the Night a young man who turns out to be
her one true friend comes through and helps her out of a difficult time. Sherman