The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities Summary and Analysis of Chapter 24 - "The Informants" and Chapter 25 - "We the Jury"


Sherman is irate about the circumstances of his arrest. He feels betrayed by Killian, and persecuted by the system, so he storms Killian's office in order to fire the lawyer. After an uncomfortable wait, Sherman lights into Killian, but Killian counters that he was betrayed by the DA's office. He apologizes and implies that the treatment would never have occurred if an Irishman had been DA. Killian talks too fast and too much to allow Sherman to fire him.

The lawyer calls into his office a private investigator, Quigley, who has tracked down Roland Auburn's mug shot. Sherman identifies Roland as the second man at the scene of the accident. Killian explains that Roland's criminal history make it likely that he struck a bargain to testify, which weakens the DA's case. Quigley has also tracked down Maria, who has fled with the young artist Filippo Chirazzi to Italy. Sherman gallantly insists that Maria is neither evading the court nor seeing Chirazzi. Having provided this news, Killian demands a huge retainer fee of $75,000. Sherman naively agrees.

Downtown, Lawrence Kramer and Shelly Thomas dine together at a trendy cajun restaurant. Though the food is awful, they both pretend to enjoy themselves because of the place's trendiness (and exorbitant expense). Larry agonizes over where to take Shelly so that they can be alone together. He continues to put himself and his case in the best possible light. Shelly knows that Larry is married and doesn't seem to mind. She annoys Larry, however, by observing that, as Roland is a criminal, Sherman might have been avoiding a robbery at the time of the hit-and-run. When this comment offends Larry, Shelly clams up. She allows Larry to kiss her even as she complains inwardly that New York men always talk about their careers on dates.

Peter Fallow receives another huge and undeserved break when, at the Leicester bar, a woman he had long pursued tells him the identity of the "Mystery Brunette." This informant, Caroline Heftshank, is a society friend of Maria Ruskin through Filippo Chirazzi.

In Chapter 25, Edward Fiske III continues to try to track down the $350,000 his Diocese gave Reverend Bacon. Just as before, Bacon is busy fielding phone calls about the Lamb case. Bacon tries to elude Fiske with another speech about "steam control" -- how the Diocese money is a guilty pay-off from the white establishment -- but Fiske has done his homework. He has uncovered Bacon's dummy corporation, Urban Guaranty Investments. Fiske asks Bacon to pay the Diocese back from Urban Guaranty Investments' ample funds. Bacon counters that it's illegal to "mix funds," and says that the Diocese's money has been put to good use. The Reverend's bodyguard (the tall man with the gold earring) politely escorts the "befuddled" Fiske to the door.

Meanwhile, Bacon's people have been busy. A group of angry protesters have besieged the McCoys' Park Avenue apartment. McCoy has hired, on Killian's recommendation, four body guards -- two for the Park Avenue apartment, and two for his parents' townhouse, where Judy and Campbell are staying. While Sherman chafes under death threats and calls from the media, the rapacious and impolite real estate broker whom he met at the Bavardages' cocktail party, Sally Rawthrote, calls to offer her services in selling his apartment. McCoy, enraged, tells her off and slams down the phone. The outburst raises his spirits, slightly.

Sherman also learns that Al Vogel is representing Henry Lamb in a civil suit against him. To top all, Pollard Browning, president of the apartment co-op, asks him to leave because of the ongoing protest. Sherman lets Pollard have it too, practically throwing him out of the apartment.


After thirty-eight years of privilege and wealth, the misfortunes keep piling up for Sherman. Having received a taste of victimization (and Wolfe is careful to show how unjustified the extent of Sherman's punishment has become), Sherman is quick to feel that he doesn't deserve any of this trouble. He doesn't yet see his own flaws -- how childish his view of "us" and "them" is, and how inadaquate. Sherman has yet to take responsibility for the mess he is in, which followed quite clearly from his own racism, denial, old-fashioned chivalry, and legal stupidity.

That's not to say that he's not growing at all. The affair has made the inanity of his Park Avenue lifestyle clearer and clearer, and this realization is leading Sherman to act out of indignation rather than despair. The outbursts Sherman has to Sally Rawthrote and Pollard Browning, both Park Avenue establishment types, show that he is nearing the end of his patience. He realizes now that he has never had any real friends in his Park Avenue world, and he is disgusted that everyone has turned on him in his hour of need. Killian jokes that Sherman is "turning Irish," because he has some fight in him now. Once a suicidal W.A.S.P., Sherman seems to realize -- or to be on the verge of realizing -- that a little Irish isn't a bad thing. If he's going to get out of this, he'll have to get angry and fight. Despite this newfound fire, however, the question of whether Sherman will move beyond indignation and disgust with Park Avenue, and toward a greater understanding of others, remains open.

Meanwhile, Killian is as smooth as ever -- perhaps he's named after the lager? He staves off McCoy's obvious attempts to broach the subject of firing him, and even manages to hit up Sherman for a bundle while Sherman still has money to give. Additionally, the private investigator Quigley seems to have made some real progress in the case, having found out Maria's whereabouts and Roland's criminal history.

It's worth noting that although McCoy has been crucified by the media, his case is not really all that bleak. Manslaughter at worst, yes, but if he can either undermine Roland's credibility as a witness (which, given his plea-bargain and his criminal history, isn't that mighty a task) or establish that Maria was the driver (which, after all, she was), Sherman's off the hook. The case has been inflated into an opened-and-closed affair by the media, which could ultimately work against the prosecution as much as the defense.

Case in point: Larry Kramer. Even Shelly can see that Larry's case is wobbly, but Larry is so intoxicated by his newfound power and prestige that he has no realistic sense of how to win the case. He feels that everything will go his way because he's the good guy on the T.V. That's the reason Shelly like him, he thinks, and the reason he can do no wrong in prosecuting the case, which is practically won already. We'll see about that.