Wall Street golden boy, scion of old W.A.S.P. money, and self-described "Master of the Universe," Sherman has it all. His education, his mistress Maria Ruskin, his social circle: all are elite. He is also clearly prejudiced along ethnic, religious, social, economic, gender and racial lines.
Sherman's wife -- two years his senior. She has become the "social x-ray" style of Park Avenue wife. As soon as she knows of the possibility of Sherman's affair, she withdraws all affection.
Sherman and Judy's six-year-old daughter.
John Campbell McCoy
Sherman McCoy's aging father. The former "lion" general partner of the law firm Dunning, Sponget, and Leach.
Sherman's aristocratic mother.
Extremely slick, well-dressed, and fast-talking criminal defense lawyer for Sherman McCoy. He formerly worked in the District Attorney's office, but went into private practice to make money. His clients include the worst kind of rich criminals, including racketeers and drug dealers. A native Irish New Yorker, he attempts to redeem favors owed him by people in the criminal justice system to shield his clients.
Sherman McCoy's mistress. She is a working-class girl from South Carolina who has used her attrativeness to marry well. Her husband is the extremely wealthy and aged Arthur Ruskin.
Jewish District Attorney for the borough of the Bronx. He is constantly angling for re-election, which nears as the novel begins. He is an excellent manipulator of the press, and cares far more about voter opinion than he does about justice. He has the gall, however, to pretend otherwise and to assume a idealistic tone with some of his employees. Larry Kramer is one of his assistant district attorneys, and Weiss directs him in the McCoy case.
The hit-and-run victim in the Sherman McCoy case. A high school student living in a housing project in the Bronx, he has managed to keep himself out of trouble and to stay in school. By the standards of his neighborhood, this makes him an honor student. Annie Lamb is his mother.
Mrs. Annie Lamb
The mother of Henry Lamb. She used to work for Reverend Bacon.
An alcoholic, plagiarizing, sponging layabout reporter from The City Light who breaks the Lamb case when Al Vogel feeds him information. He is British, and despises all things American. His first name, Peter, may be a broad hint to his crying "wolf" about the "Lamb" case. His coverage of the McCoy case wins him a Pulitzer Prize.
The Assistant DA assigned to the McCoy case. He is a fawning sycophant to DA Abe Weiss. His ultimate goals appear to be the advancement of his legal career and sexual conquests with women, not necessarily in that order. He is uneasy about his Jewish heritage and resists the responsibilities of family life.
The wife of ADA Lawrence Kramer. She has recently given birth to their first child, Joshua.
Infant son of Lawrence and Rhoda.
The Irish cop half of the detective team of Martin and Goldberg. Kramer considers him the epitome of "Irish Masculinity."
The Jewish detective assigned to the McCoy case. Kramer, who is Jewish himself, thinks he has become Irish by association with Martin.
The Irish head of the homocide unit of the office of the District Attorney.
Sherman McCoy's family lawyer. He works for Sherman's father's firm, Dunning, Sponget, and Leach. His name may be an reference to Red Buttons, the American comedian.
Sir Gerald Steiner
Jewish-British publisher of The City Light. Called "The Dead Mouse" by Fallow and his cronies. An early parody of the Rupert Murdoch-style of British journalism tycoon. The name Steiner is derived from a German word meaning "stone," which may refer either to Sir Gerald's implacability, or to Fallow's assumption that Steiner is not very bright.
Jewish head of the investment firm Pierce and Pierce. His name (lop-wits) is a crude reference to Wolfe's opinion of this type of Wall Street tycoon.
A New York lawyer representing Henry Lamb in the McCoy case. He breaks the news to Peter Fallow, thus making the case public.
A painter in the fashionable art world of New York. He is the paramour of Maria Ruskin and becomes her second husband.
Edward Fiske III
A young man, of Ivy League education, employed by the Episcopalian Diocese of New York to check on its donations to Reverend Bacon.
A Harlem minister who wields great power within his African-American community. He is the head of several shell or dummy organizations and corporations, through which he practices extortion and fraudulently obtains monetary donations. He, like Abe Weiss, is a master manipulator of the press. He takes up the McCoy case as a means to attack the white power structure of Manhattan. Bacon's name is a direct attack on the "pork-barrel" money he extorts from the white establishment.
A older judge of uncompromising disposition, he is assigned to the McCoy case. He is the one official in the criminal justice system who is represented with wholly disinterested motivations.
The investigator employed by Thomas Killian on the McCoy case.
The aged and very wealthy husband of Maria Ruskin. A Jewish man, he has made his fortune running charter flights for Muslims to make pilgimages to Mecca.
The Girl with Brown Lipstick. A young woman on a criminal trial jury in the Bronx, with whom Lawrence Kramer attempts to have an affair.
The Bonfire of the Vanities Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Bonfire of the Vanities is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.