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Dick Diver as Control Freak in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night Essays

Dick Diver as Control Freak in Tender Is the Night

In Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Dick Diver is assigned the role of doctor, but he does not play this role convincingly. In modern technical terms, Diver is a control freak, more dysfunctional than his star patient and wife, Nicole Diver. As Diver loses control of more and more situations and begins to assume Nicole’s instabilities, his integrity lessens — he becomes more of a drunkard and less of a psychiatrist.

Diver’s profession as a psychiatrist is the first signal Fitzgerald gives the reader that Diver’s character thrives on understanding and conquering the human mind. Diver has only one plan: “To be a good psychologist — maybe to be the greatest one that ever lived” (Fitzgerald, Tender, 132). This goal represents Diver’s interest in overpowering others initially through medical practice and his understanding that he has the capacity to do so. Rooted in Diver’s past, the desire to control portrays itself later in Diver’s relationships and calculated behaviors.

Fitzgerald highlights Diver’s incessant need to control people when describing the Divers’ notorious parties. Diver wants “to give a really bad party … a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going about home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette” (27). To achieve this goal, Diver has perfected the skill of manipulating his guests, so that “he won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect (27-28). Diver believes he has the power to dictate the behavior of his guests and the outcome of his parties. Playing with people has become a hobby of Diver’s, as he must be in control of his guests and the evening at all times.

Diver’s controlling nature presents itself not only at his parties, but also in his relations with Nicole Diver. While Diver does love his wife, he nonetheless “handles” her, always treating her like a patient over whom he has power. During their courtship, the letters Diver sends to Nicole Diver say mostly, “be a good girl and mind the doctors” (130). These were not traditional love letters, rather letters between an adoring patient and her doctor. Diver retained his superior status as doctor who had control over her while corresponding with her, as his letters contained commands for her behavior — he knew she would follow his directions.

Need for Control in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night Essays

Need for Control in Tender is the Night

Dick Diver’s love for his wife, Nicole, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, is based purely on his need to assert control and act as care taker to her due to her illness. He assumes this role in order to feel validation for his own lack of achievement in his professional life. The only true success he can be credited is Nicole’s ‘cure,’ achieved through his devotion and care; thus he continually tries to replicate this previous success in his relationships to other young girls. He looks to be a source of caring and stability just as he had been for Nicole, relying on him for caring and protection from her illness.

The growth of Dick and Nicole’s relationship is shown through letters written by Nicole. Although there are none of Dick’s replies to refer to we see the change in Nicole from incoherent babble to normal correspondence. Dr. Gregory thus attributes the case to Dick as a success, “When the change began, delicacy prevented me from opening any more. Really it had become your case”(136). Nicole comes to rely on his letters at the clinic and is apologetic when he doesn’t write, fearing she has lost him; “But when Dick’s answer was delayed for any reason, there was a fluttering burst of worry-like a worry of a lover: ‘Perhaps I have bored you’, and: ‘Afraid I have presumed'(142). He is her connection outside of the clinic and she desperately needs that relationship and his approval. Nicole is repeatedly described through her smile as young and innocent, “She smiled, a moving childish smile that was like the lost youth of the world,” and “whenever he turned to her she was smiling a little, her face lighting up like an angel’s…”(153). The love she feels for D…

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…glish things; the story of safe gardens ringed around by the sea was implicit in her bright voice…”(248). In each of these he is looking for love outside of the control he once had over Nicole and in doing so is drawn to the young and impressionable girls he sees and assumes he can replicate his love with Nicole.

The complete loss of control over Nicole and over her illness is the ultimate demise of Dick. “She hated the beach, resented the places where she had played planet to Dick’s sun. Why I’m almost complete, I’m practically standing alone, without him”(321). Nicole’s realization of her freedom leads her away from Dick, and his only success was in the end his greatest failure, the loss of love of his wife and his loss of the life he knew.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961

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