The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe is a novel exploring the frailties of human nature and the self-interested motivations of people in various levels of society. This is a story of Sherman McCoy, a successful upper-class individual, who has a six-figure Wall Street job, an expensive Fifth Avenue apartment, a beautiful wife and family, as well as a girlfriend. Through a strange twist of fate, he takes a wrong turn off the highway which brings him to the mean streets of the South Bronx. This consequence turns his quiet predictable life upside down. While lost with his girlfriend, Sherman finds his vehicle barricaded in an apparent attempt to make him the victim of a robbery. He successfully defends himself and in his haste of flee, his girlfriend jumps behind the wheel and runs over an innocent teenage bystander.
In the investigation and prosecution that follow, the author explores in detail the motivation of the various characters including the district attorney, assistant prosecutor, minister, newspaper reporter, girlfriend, and his lawyer. Everyone is playing their role to further their own self-interest with little or no regard for justice. The outcome is that Mr. McCoy loses it all. The author views human nature in a somewhat cynical view, making it believable to the reader
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.