When referring to the demise of Dick in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, I think it is impossible that we not consider the demise of Dick and Nicole as a couple. They begin the book as a unit rather like a Chinese dragon with Dick at the head and Nicole following behind, both covered by the decorative cloak of the appearances they maintained. There are several transitions that they go through that upset the balance that allowed them to maintain a functioning marriage. I believe that while there were several factors impacting their relationship, it is the increasing independence and strength of Nicole that ultimately ends the marriage, and severs the tie that allows Dick to maintain his identity.
In Italy, after he begins his affair with Rosemary, Dick is disillusioned with her. He finds that Rosemary belongs to other people. In his disillusionment, his thoughts turn to Nicole, and how she is still “his girl – too often he was sick at heart about her, yet she was his girl” (213). Rosemary is no longer his possession solely and this cracks his surface. He returns to his love for Nicole like a guard, because he is weak without it. He refers to it as “an obscuring dye” (217). He is Nicole, and Nicole is he, and at this point the line between them has been blurred to bring them together. Dick does not realize that as much as he believes Nicole depends on him, he is dependent on her. He depends on her neediness to define him. Dick knows, however, that Nicole is important to him and that the thought “that she should die, sink into mental darkness, love another man, made him physically sick”(217). Not only is this excellent foreshadowing on Fitzgerald’s part, but it gives us a measure just how dependent Dick is. Physical illness is uncontrollable. If even the thought makes causes him to have psychosomatic symptoms, it is imaginable what the actuality would bring. Dick needs Nicole badly, more so than ever at this point.
Nicole on the other hand begins to become stronger within herself at this point. Nicole acts on her own to go to her father when she believes he is dying. Franz says to her “I must first talk on the phone to Dick” (250).
Distorted Perceptions in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night
Distorted Perceptions in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night
Any visitor to the French Riviera in the mid-1920s, the setting of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, would describe Dr. Richard Diver as a charming, respected, well-mannered physician. Dick is a noble man who has dedicated his life to the health and protection of his beloved wife without thought to himself. Furthermore, he gives wonderful parties and is a reliable source of help to any friend in need. In fact, “to be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience” (Fitzgerald, Tender, 27).
Under this façade of composure, however, lies a tormented personality. The stresses in Dick’s life are numerous, as he deals with Nicole’s breakdowns and other aspects of his career and social relationships. He has no one to help him through these difficulties but he still manages to rescue his friends in countless instances. He does his best to play his role as husband, father, friend, and physician, but he is clearly not comfortable with his responsibilities, and his confusion manifests itself through his obsession with youthfulness. Not only does Dr. Diver try to appear young and vital to the outside world, he also has an unhealthy obsession with much younger women in his life. This paternal attitude toward females mingled with sensual desire is a sign of Dick’s hidden instability which slowly becomes more visible.
Several events point to Dick’s desire to appear younger and as his immature attitude about life. He has a strong need for social approval and tries to ensure his social standing by being a gracious and charming host to a myriad of friends and acquaintances. He is very concerned with each guest’s opinion of him, and i…
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A major component of the disintegration of Dick Diver, therefore, is his confusion and immaturity regarding relationships with younger women, as well as his own need to seem youthful. His reputation and well-liked persona are achieved despite his childlike attitudes, but as he slowly loses his ability to conceal his true personality, he is deserted by everyone. Just as the incestuous actions of Nicole’s father led to her illness and his private torment, Dick Diver’s distorted perceptions of appropriate relationships lead to his own fall into obscurity.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. New York, NY.: Simon