Book Review


„Bonfire of the Vanities“


The book Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe is a book I read recently. Tom 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 shown 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 of 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 to 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 in their way. The boys began talking and Sherman gets the impression that they may rob him. He throws a tire that is lying at the side of the road at the boys, and 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 everyone’s life in that they 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 events may not be happy, but they help people realize who their true friends really are. Sherman experiences this many times in his life. This book also shows 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