Bonfire of the Vanities Essay

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The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Wolfe’s version of New York in The Bonfire of the Vanities displays how self-interest motivates almost everyone in the Park Avenue environs. Often men use women for little other than sexual gratification, and women use men almost entirely for pecuniary and/or social gain. One of Wolfe’s main characters, Sherman McCoy, is a good example of an upper class business man of New York. Through deception, Sherman leads a double life as a successful business man and a father. Sherman’s personality is riddled with doubt and he doesn’t have the confidence to maintain a relationship. By the end of the book, Sherman is smart enough to know that his Park Avenue obsession with wealth masks a heartless existence, but this is after he is persecuted for a hit-and-run case. There is social justice and there is personal justice, and both need to be served. After Sherman’s mistress commits a hit-and-run with his car in the Bronx, he finds himself in a mound of stress that is taking over his career and family life. Sherman becomes more and more anxious when he reads numerous articles about hit-and-runs in the Bronx. Instead of putting a full effort into his job, his mind is stuck on his hit-and-run case.

“That was as much as he could read. Felix had folded the newspaper at that point. The rest was on the lower half of the page. His brain was on fire. He was dying to reach down and turn the newspaper over – and dying never to have to know what it would reveal.” (250)

Sherman is finally persecuted by Peter Fallow (the author of the City Light Newspaper in which the article was published) and is brought to justice. He lies about what he did that one night in the Bronx, and as a result he loses everything he worked for. Even though Sherman did not commit the hit-and-run himself, he is punished for it. It appears the press and even the district attorney's office takes Sherman’s trial to be a way to correct the racial wrongs of the...
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