Wealth and Virtue: Utopian Republicanism in Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities

Henrik Torjusen

Abstract


Tom Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, has often been viewed as a satirical attack on Wall Street and the mentality of a city torn to pieces by ethnic strife. Wolfe’s reaction was to deny that his novel was a satire. This article argues not only that the pursuit of status and freedom has a serious and non-serious side in Wolfe’s works, but also that in Bonfire Wolfe’s actual ideal takes the shape of a utopian republicanism and leads back to a notion of a society consisting of unique and free individuals united in a common pursuit for a just society in light of the common good—not in the shape of equality, but in light of virtue and freedom.

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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