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[219] Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tender1

“So you understand my relations with Nicole are complicated. She’s not very strong—she looks strong but she isn’t. And this makes rather a mess.” [75]

While The Great Gatsby, with its tragic and monetary allure, is wildly popular with critics and public alike, Tender is the Night is in my opinion more substantial in the extent to which Fitzgerald explores the complication of human nature. The dark novel chronicles the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst, who marries the beautiful and wealthy Nicole Warren, a patient of his.

Beneath the grace and sophistication of the Divers’ high life, whom at the beginning of the novel are surrounded by a circle of American friends at the luxury villa in Southern France are cracks of their emotionally imbalanced marriage. The young starlet Rosemary Hoyt, who also vacations with her mother, has not only fallen in love with Dick at the first sight, but also discerns all that is wrong about Dick’s relationship with Nicole. While her young and naive eyes celebrate the Divers, whose villa she views as the center of the world, Rosemary’s perspective of what the Divers seem to be, the delusion of a happy marriage, will accentuate Dick Diver’s decadence.

Dick had no suspicion of the sharpness of the change; he was profoundly unhappy and the subsequent increase of egotism tended momentarily to blind him to what was going on about him… [86]

As the history of Dick Diver ominously unfolds, one will see that he has married Nicole Warren, who has suffered from a nervous breakdown following an incestuous relationship with her father, as part of her cure is a huge mistake. His flaw lays in the fact that he does not leave a self-protective professional detachment and coldness at the beginning, when Dick seems more a father figure to Nicole. The treatment that he prescribes for her has quickly entrapped him, throwing him on the road to destruction.

Many times he had tried unsuccessfully to let go his hold on her. [180]

. . . he had never felt more sure of himself, more thoroughly his own men, than at the time of his marriage to Nicole. [201]

The irony is that Dick’s preventive measure on Nicole’s disintegration has rendered himself the more debilitating partner. He has progressively failed in what he attempts while Nicole becomes stronger and realizes she is not in love with him. In other word, Nicole is becoming stronger at the expense of Dick’s fall. Written at the time when Fitzgerald’s wife’s condition deteriorated so rapidly that she had to be hospitalized in a sanitarium on Lake Geneva, the book makes inquiries on human soul condition and visualizes people not in their immediate setting. The novel, with its contemplative prose that is beautiful but occasionally hard going, continues the legacy of The Great Gatsby in exploring how money corrupts and destroys wealthy individuals who cannot focus their lives.

313 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

18 Responses

  1. I’ve not read this nor The Great Gatsby – but based on your review – I think I’ll start off with Tender is the Night. 🙂

  2. I read both Gatsby and Tender is the Night in high school, and much preferred the latter. I’ve been wanting to reread it for a couple of years now and even purchased a new copy recently…

  3. I’ve wanted to read this for ages, and I just have the worst luck with it! Once I ordered it at B&N, and when I went in to pick it up, they said they’d just sold my copy to someone else and didn’t have any others. I checked it out of my university library, and fifteen pages were missing out of the front. Your review makes it sound as wonderful as I’ve always suspected, so I’ll have to give it another stab. 🙂

  4. I have read Great Gatsby but I wasn’t impressed with it much as I expected to be..

  5. This has definately given me hope that I will now be able to give Fitzgerald a go and I didnt know much about this one (nor do I own it) and now I really want to read it!

  6. I agree. . .I think Tender is the Night brings out more of Fitzgerald’s personal feelings. However, it’s hard to top Gatsby for me!

  7. lena:
    I think either ones would be good intro to his works. 🙂

  8. JoAnn:
    Fitzgerald’s works always make deep impression in me, probably owing to the thought-provoking nature.

  9. Jenny:
    Oh bummer! How could they sell it to someone else when it’s been reserved for you???? I’m just appalled!

  10. rhodoraonline:
    Maybe because none of the characters in The Great Gatsby are likable? 🙂

  11. savidgereads:
    Simon, I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy Tender better than Gatbsy because it’s more substanced and engrossing.

  12. Amy Reads Good Books:
    He certainly inserts an autobiographical element to the book since what befalls Dick Diver, who is really undergoing a downfall, is parallel to his wife Zelda.

  13. I know this will be sacrilege to most, but I tried to read Gatsby a little while back and I just couldn’t do it! I really did not connect to the writing at all and wound up taking it back to the library unfinished… something about the style (too many adverbs?) drove me bananas!

  14. Gatsby is one of my favorite books. I have not read this one but after reading your review, it is going on the TBR list! Great review.

  15. Steph:
    Gatsby is very embellished, almost reads like a Henry James. The story is fast-paced despite the occasional verbal entanglement!

  16. Rebecca:
    Tender is more “deeper”, exploring the terrain of emotion and inner thoughts.

  17. Yes, I think I wasn’t impressed with Gatsby much because I could perceive room for more depth on the author’s part…

  18. rhodoraonline
    The Gatsby story is more to-the-point, but I find tender writing more contemplative and deeper.

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