The Bonfire of the Vanities Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 5 short answer questions, 10 short essay questions, and 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Short Answer Questions

1. How did Henry Lamb's father die?

2. What aspect of the Henry Lamb story does Reverend Bacon want to receive more coverage?

3. In Chapter 4, what title does Maria assign to Sherman that annoys him?

4. What does Sherman promise Tommy Killian he will do?

5. Why does Peter Fallow pretend to be on the phone when a co-worker approaches him?

Short Essay Questions

1. How does Judy explain Sherman's work to Campbell?

2. How does Sherman McCoy's self-image change during the course of Chapter 3?

3. How does Fallow falsify the source of his information regarding the Mercedes search?

4. How does Tommy Killian explain the criminal justice system to Sherman in Chapter 17?

5. Who is Roland Auburn?

6. What does Sherman realize about Maria during their conversation in Chapter 11?

7. What do Maria and Sherman ultimately decide to do regarding the Bronx car incident?

8. Why does Sherman McCoy have to go to the toilet at his firm to read the newspaper?

9. Describe Sherman McCoy's history with Freddy Button.

10. How does Annie Lamb's situation make her cooperation with the police difficult?

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

Abe Weiss is in many respects the driving force behind all the action of the novel. Write an essay about Abe Weiss and how the plot is a vehicle for his actions. What does he ultimately want? How does the Henry Lamb case become important to that objective? What measures does Abe Weiss take to achieve this objective through Kramer, Sherman, and Fallow?

Essay Topic 2

As life becomes more complicated and precarious for Sherman McCoy, fewer and fewer supportive people in his life offer him assistance. This is a shame, because those who are not connected to the case are the most sensible and honest around him, his family. Write an essay about the three truth-tellers in his family. How does Sherman lose each of them? How do each of them serve in some way as his conscience?

Part 1) Judy McCoy

Part 2) Sherman's Father

Part 3) Campbell McCoy

Essay Topic 3

Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities is famous for its honest and vicious portrayals of persons of all races. Under the heavy satire of figures like Reverend Bacon and Roland Auburn are some maudlin and disturbing observations about black urban poverty. Write an essay on this topic:

Part 1) Early in the novel, Sherman panics while at a payphone in the rain because he sees a young black man approaching him. What assumptions does Sherman make about New York? What does this say about the social divide in New York?

Part 2) When at last the truth of why Henry Lamb and Roland Auburn were together the night Henry was run down comes out, Weiss quickly buries it. Why was Henry hanging out with Roland? Why didn't he leave when things turned violent? What constant pressures were on this nonviolent young man?

Part 3) What happens to the Lamb family at the end of the novel? How are they the ultimate losers in this elaborate game of politics, media, and legal maneuvering?

(see the answer keys)

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