Bonfire of the Vanities: Chapters 24-25

Chapter 24: The InformantsSherman goes to see Killian at his office. Sherman plans to fire Killian for the fiasco yesterday. He’d assured him he had Bernie’s word; and look what happened. Looking around him in the law office, he feels, for the first time, sympathy for the miserable criminals in need of lawyers. The drug dealers, the child molester—they’re all in the same boat.Killian has been busy fielding calls from the news media, including The City Light, and is obviously relishing the attention. He apologizes profusely for the disaster yesterday, but thinks they can turn public opinion around, as his investigator, Ed Quigley, has found some dirt on the star witness, Ronald Auburn. Quigley has also located Maria Ruskin through credit card records. She’s fled to Italy with Filippo Chirazzi, but they know where she is and they can bring her back. Sherman smiles; his vanity allows him to keep believing that Maria would never hurt or abandon him, and there must be an innocent explanation for why she’s there with Filippo.Killian warns Sherman not to say anything to anybody about the case. Weiss is at war for his job, and he’ll do anything—even tap Sherman’s phone if he has to.Now Killian needs money up front—$75,000. Sherman had been planning to fire Killian, but he writes him a fat check instead.Kramer meets Shelly Thomas for dinner, and they talk over the Lamb case and his recent televised fame. He tells her he is so happy to have someone to talk over all this with—his wife, the guys at work, they don’t understand—this case is a signal to the people of the city that evil acts are punished, no matter who you are. When Shelly raises a doubt about the case, wondering why Roland didn’t go to the police earlier, Kramer is irritated. He wants her to be fully on his side. He is a crusader, someone who is going to make a difference. Impassioned, he pulls Shelly to him, feeling her body against his and wishing he had somewhere to take her. Meanwhile, Shelly is thinking that all guys in New York are the same—you always have to listen to them boast about their career.Peter Fallow goes to Leicester’s to see his usual gang, feeling triumphant. Everyone is interested in the case and has something to say about it. Suddenly Caroline Heftshank lures him upstairs. He thinks he’s going to get lucky, but instead, she reveals the identity of the “Mystery Brunette” as socialite Maria Ruskin. Her friend Filippo Chirazzi sleeps with Maria, and he told Caroline all about it.Chapter 25: We the JuryEd Fiske is back in Bacon’s office, and he is incensed. The Daily News has reported that Auburn is a criminal and now suggests that Sherman McCoy was in fact escaping a robbery attempt on the night he hit Lamb. Bacon accuses the newspaper of racism for trying to brand innocent young Lamb as a criminal. Pierce & Pierce—in fact, the great capitalist Power Structure itself—is behind these lies. He plans a big demonstration on Park Avenue this very night. Meanwhile, Vogel is about to file a $100 million lawsuit against McCoy.Fiske, who has recently learned that Bacon’s company, Urban Guaranty Investments, is earning money trading bonds on Wall Street, tries to get a word in edgewise about the $350,000 he has come to collect. But Bacon has too much to do and hustles him out the door. He tells Fiske that the diocese has made a fabulous investment, and he’ll see why soon enough.Demonstrators have invaded Park Avenue, and Sherman McCoy, ten stories up, hears them bellowing through bullhorns. He is receiving death threats on the phone, and is spending $2400 a day on bodyguards. Judy and Campbell are at his parents’ house. Sherman again thinks of his shotgun. A woman he met at the Bavardages,’ a real-estate agent, calls to offer help in selling his apartment. Sherman is shocked and disgusted. Of course, Sherman knows, she would get a commission amounting to about $210,000—reason enough to call.Killian, who’s up in the apartment with Sherman, reassures his client that he won’t be killed by the mob. He won’t be worth much to Bacon if he’s dead because Bacon stands to get millions out of the civil suit he’s helping Vogel set up. Killian tries to comfort Sherman again by pointing out how all the papers have exposed Auburn as a criminal. Weiss must be going crazy now. Sherman’s spirits lift for a moment, but then he is dismayed by how gleeful Killian is. To him, it’s all a game.The president of the co-op board, Pollard Browning, visits Sherman. At first he is sympathetic, and Sherman appreciates the visit, but then he comes to the point: the Board is unhappy with the mob scene outside, and wants Sherman to move out of the apartment until all this is over. Sherman is enraged and throws Browning out. Now all suicidal thoughts are gone—with him dead, all Browning’s problems would be solved. Killian approves. McCoy is finally showing some Irish spirit.

Analysis of Chapters 24–25“A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested” describes Sherman’s change of heart after his arrest and imprisonment. Wolfe doesn’t necessarily mean this as a compliment. Sherman’s new sense of pity and brotherhood with the drug dealers and child molesters is rather naïve. Another change in Sherman comes when he is faced with the mobs outside his apartment and is pushed around by Pollard Browning. He stops wanting to die and gets mad. Killian approves of his newfound “Irish” fire.As Sherman falls from grace, Fallow, Killian, and Kramer are the ones on top of the world. Of course, this is the way the world works—people profiting from others’ misfortunes, scrambling over one another’s heads to reach the top of the heap. Kramer is repeats Weiss’s baloney to Shelly Thomas. He “wants to make a difference.” To her credit, she really doesn’t buy it.