Tender is the Night: Essay Q&A
1. Tender is the Night is a highly symbolic novel. Describe how Fitzgerald uses various vehicles as a means of symbolically defining Dick Diver’s life.
Fitzgerald associates a variety of vehicles with Dick Diver to define how his life evolves. Early in the novel, the Divers have a chauffeured limousine. Although Dick early swore to avoid using the money from his wife’s estate, he has succumbed to a wealthy lifestyle. They have fabulous parties and make sure their guests get home in style However, Diver’s life was not always such. During the flashback in Book 2, the young Dr. Diver is viewed going up a mountain “economizing” in a lesser compartment of an alpine train. He is not wealthy, but having attended Yale and Oxford on scholarship, he has a brilliant future as a psychiatrist ahead.
Later on, Dick is seen driving the sports car on a mountain road. With a “mad hand,” Nicole grabs the wheel and the car crashes against a tree (196). This displays the power struggle that he and Nicole share. A few months after, when Nicole’s mental health has gained momentum, she finally tells Rosemary off and drives home leaving Dick on the beach. In other words, Dick is losing power. Soon after, a drunken Dick cannot drive home and he must take a back seat as the man who will soon replace him with Nicole drives him home. After he consummates the affair with Rosemary, he loses his honor and comes home in a taxi. By the novel’s end, Dick rides a bicycles and readers are left wondering whether his drinking has continued to escalate so he can no longer drive.
2. Early on in the novel Dick Diver’s once brilliant friend Abe North has become an alcoholic. How does Abe North function in the novel?
Abe can be seen as a warning sign for Dick, and his life illustrates the trajectory Dick’s life will take if he doesn’t change his ways. He used to be brilliant musician but loses his talent to alcohol. Dick, who doesn’t drink early on in the novel, is in danger of suffering the same demise. Abe, who once used to dress well, looks seedy at the railway station before he leaves Paris the same way Dick looks in the hotel in Rome where he meets Rosemary.
As a result of his drunkenness, violence seeks out Abe who gets into a brawl in a bar, like the one Dick gets into in Rome when he refuses to pay the taxi driver’s fee and winds up in jail. When Dick returns from Rome, Kaethe Gregorovius sees the wounds on his face and smells the alcohol on his breath, and talks about him to her husband in a manner similar to those who talked about Abe and his drinking: "Dick is no longer a serious man" (241). After the parents of a patient remove their son from the clinic, it becomes clear alcohol has ruined Dick‘s career, just as drinking ruined Abe’s career. Abe dies in a New York bar brawl and while Dick hasn’t quite reached this stage yet, drinking is a major factor in his loss of Nicole. Quite possibly Dick will also meet death in an obscure New York bar.
3. Discuss the role of Baby Warren as the villain in Tender is the Night.
Baby Warren has been cast as the real villain in Tender is the Night. She represents the decay of American honor and dignity after World War I. After all, it is Baby who tempts the upcoming brilliant young doctor Diver with her never ending riches to live a life of luxurious excess if he will become her schizophrenic sister’s built-in psychiatrist. Baby’s control over money makes Dick powerless and the wealth she offers will end his “liberty,” something he is only able to regain at the very large price of his health and honor at the end of the novel when he divorces Nicole.
It is Baby who shows up periodically to remind Diver just how much money is available, and he falls deeper and deeper into her velvet-lined trap until she has complete power over him. In time, she finances the clinic on the Zurichsee, thereby providing a psychiatric clinic for her sister when necessary and a position for Dick where he can care for Nicole. When Dick is forced to call on Baby Warren for help after his incarceration in an Italian jail, she relishes the ideas that the Warrens have him completely in their power.
It is hardly surprising then that the resentment Dick feels toward the scandalously rich Baby Warren and her money would cause him to increase his drinking. This leads to the question, however, of whether it is Eve or the tempting snake Satan who is to blame for the fall of mankind.
4. How does the incest theme function in Tender is the Night?
At first it appears that although Dick Diver likes young girls, he is not as bad as the truly evil Devereaux Warren who sexually molested his daughter Nicole when she was about fifteen and set into the motion the mental illness that was to plague her. But as time passes, it becomes clear that Dick’s “questionable” attractions do indeed suggest incest. This tendency toward incest, on the part of the likable Dick Diver, makes him a far more complex and unsavory character.
Although at first Dick, "older enough than Nicole to take pleasure in her youthful vanities and delights," is attracted to young Nicole but he is doubtful about marrying her (137). However, lured by her money and childish fresh beauty, he puts aside his doubts about marrying a mental patient. Because he takes on the parental role in caring and guiding Nicole, in this regard he replaces her sexually abusive father. Years later, he is smitten by Rosemary’s youthful looks and childish behavior but treats her as a parent would until he sees her in the aptly named “Daddy’s Girl,” and begins to take inappropriate romantic action towards her. The incest motif reappears as Dick becomes aware of how much his daughter Topsy looks like Nicole: "she was nine and very fair and exquisitely made like Nicole…Dick had worried about that" and realizes before consummating his relationship with Rosemary how very much she looks like his daughter (257). Had Dick remained with Nicole, chances are he would have come to imitate Devereaux’s behavior.
5. At the end of the novel, Nicole recovers and begins a new life with Tommy Barban. However, she comes to believe that Dick has anticipated this outcome and perhaps may even have planned it. Agree or disagree.
While Dick has been busy sinking into alcoholism, readers develop the tendency to dismiss him as a miserable failure who would have been fired from his job as a psychiatrist for drinking had he not owned the clinic. However, Dick was at one time considered to be a brilliant psychiatrist, and throughout the novel, he seems to be aware of events and little surprised at outcomes. For instance, he is not at all surprised by the decline of Abe North and in fact, anticipates his death. As a psychiatrist, he realizes that if he is to survive that he must free himself from what he sees as the root cause of his unhappiness: he must escape from Nicole: “I can’t do anything for you any more. I’m trying to save myself.” However, since he took on responsibility for her by marrying her, he cannot, as a husband and as a doctor, ever be free until she is mentally well and happy with someone else.
Although he doesn’t care to think or Nicole with another man, he has, all along, been “glad to see her build up happiness and confidence apart from him" (137). At the end, when Nicole lets loose the resentments she had held locked up for years she feels “finally truly free of him” and Dick also realizes that for him as a husband the marriage is over and as a doctor "the case is finished," and Doctor Diver was at liberty” (302).