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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 548

Diary of a Yuppie is a candid first-person account of a crucial period in a young lawyer’s life. The book is presented as a private journal but is unlike most such works in that it is surprisingly free of confessions of guilt or even expressions of regret. To Robert Service,...

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Diary of a Yuppie is a candid first-person account of a crucial period in a young lawyer’s life. The book is presented as a private journal but is unlike most such works in that it is surprisingly free of confessions of guilt or even expressions of regret. To Robert Service, the title character, the end always justifies the means.

The novel begins in 1979. At thirty-two, Service is happily married to Alice, a beautiful, intelligent woman whom he met at Columbia University, and they have two daughters. Service specializes in corporate takeovers, and he has done so well that at the beginning of the next year, he expects to be made a partner in his firm. With this achievement, he will have outdone his father, who never became a partner but settled instead for an inferior position. The respect that Service might otherwise have bestowed on his real father has gone to Branders Blakelock, a highly respected member of the firm and the young man’s mentor and sponsor.

However, from Service’s vantage point, Blakelock no longer deserves his respect or even his loyalty when, by criticizing the younger man’s tactics, he proves to have what Service considers nineteenth century values. To Service, that criticism justifies his conspiring with Glenn Deane, another unscrupulous lawyer, and Peter Stubbs, a gifted and wealthy young man, to steal the most capable young men from their present firm and start their own. After Blakelock informs her as to what Service has done, Alice is so appalled that she moves out. Service cannot understand why she disapproves of his actions. He misses her, however, and is determined to do anything to get her back.

Six months later, the new firm has seventeen partners and thirty-nine associates. However, Service’s conspirator Deane has gathered a little court around him that threatens Service’s power. Again, Service strikes, but by expelling Deane from the firm, he infuriates Alice, who had been about to return to her husband.

Although Service had always prided himself on his fidelity, he now becomes involved with another woman, Sylvia Sands, a professional fund-raiser, who proves to be both as clever and as unscrupulous as Service. At first, Service is dazzled by the circles in which she moves, but before long, he realizes that she is controlling both his social life and his professional commitments. When she tries to force him to divorce Alice and marry her, he breaks off the affair. Alice takes Service back, just as he is, and he resolves to act more like the man Alice wants him to be. When she turns out to be pregnant, he is ecstatic, for to him that is proof that the gods are truly on his side.

Throughout the novel, Service justifies every unethical act on the grounds that, because every human being is selfish and greedy, he is merely acting in self-defense. It is significant, then, that in the end he promises to “act” differently, not to “be” different. Moreover, since he will no longer be keeping a journal, he will not even have to contemplate what he truly is. Clearly, Auchincloss means Robert Service to represent modern man at his worst: a creature who glories in his freedom from all constraints, a creature without a soul.

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