Characterization is Wolfe’s Achilles’ heel, and his weakness in this aspect of fiction writing might explain why he had never tried to write a novel before. He has been criticized for creating characters who are stereotypes or caricatures. Throughout his career, Wolfe has been known as a social satirist, and this venture into fiction writing did not represent a radical change in technique. His previous writings, which were all important contributions to the school of the “New Journalism,” focused on human foibles. In this novel, he was more anxious to point out the foibles of social classes than to attempt to invent three-dimensional characters.
Sherman represents the upwardly mobile, well-educated upper-middle-class capitalists who bring billions of dollars flowing into New York City and thereby attract hordes of “have-nots.” His wife represents all the spoiled, selfish women who are married to the Sherman McCoys. Judy is sexually frustrated because her husband has turned his affections to a younger woman, and she consequently expends her energies on extravagant purchases that keep them chronically in debt.
Maria Ruskin has been criticized for being nothing more than a stereotypical “dumb blonde.” She has been given a thick Southern accent to make her stand out as a character. She is just as selfish, spoiled, and bitchy as Sherman’s wife, but she is quite a few years younger.
Peter Fallow is lazy and incompetent,...
(The entire section is 562 words.)