Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*French Riviera. Resort area along France’s Mediterranean coast that the novel refers to as the “home” of Dick Diver and his wife. The novel opens there, and the Divers periodically return there, and there the novel concludes with Dick blessing the beach from a terrace. As a literary device, the Riviera and its cities represent various aspects of the characters, the lives they lead, and the kinds of people they are becoming. The Riviera is pictured as a playground for the rich and famous, a place where Rosemary attends empty, pretentious parties with the Divers; where Nicole Warren spends money prodigiously—an indication of the relentless materialism of her family; where Dick repeatedly shines as glib host at dinner parties; where Mary North and Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers are arrested for their careless, condescending shenanigans; and where Nicole’s infidelity with Tommy Barban occurs.
Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers
Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers (gos-es oh-tel day-say-trahn-jay). Hotel on the French Riviera located somewhere “between Marseilles and the Italian Border” in which the novel opens. The hotel’s beach is where the initial infatuation begins between Dick Diver and film star Rosemary Hoyt and is the site of many scenes juxtaposed to indicate both the Divers’ charm as a couple and the ultimate disintegration of their marriage.
The hotel is significant as a...
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Set in Europe between 1925 and 1935, and with flashbacks that cover the years 1917 to 1925, Tender Is the Night describes a group of wealthy and idle American expatriates who, like their counterparts of the “Jazz Age” and the “Roaring Twenties,” have little else to do but eat, drink, attend parties, and survive their personal crises.
When Dick Diver first arrives in Zurich, a war is raging across Europe. Although there are references to an earlier time when he was studying in Vienna and had a firsthand experience with the shelling and its resultant discomforts, Diver is largely unaffected on a personal level by the war. Europe, however, was recovering from the devastating effects of the war that was to have ended all wars. Millions of Europeans were killed, and entire cities were ruined. During the decade in which the book largely takes place, Europe as a whole was still working to rebuild its infrastructures.
Meanwhile, in America, the period known as the Roaring Twenties was well under way. With the stock market surging, a generation of “nouveau riche” Americans found their way to the European shores and cities with lots of money to spend. Desperate for the infusion of capital, Europe was forced to pander to these Americans, though not without some cultural conflicts. Tender Is the Night describes typical wealthy Americans who live idly off the European continent. Although the term “ugly American” would not be...
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Ideas for Group Discussions
While many critics and general readers believe that Gatsby takes the palm as Fitzgerald's greatest literary achievement, many others view Tender Is the Night (a title taken from Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," a fact that invites discussion) as the more insightful and fully developed novel. Consideration might be given to a careful comparison of these works, with an eye toward deciding which is indeed the more penetrating vision of the human condition. Also, the novel was published in a revised version in 1948; in this text, the antecedent information is taken from its interjected position and presented entirely, along with the rest of the plot, in chronological order. Readers might find it instructive to compare these texts, to determine whether the device of antecedent information "works" better than a linear presentation of the plot, or whether the revision was an improvement on the original publication.
1. If Amory Blaine's life can be seen as a striving for "selfhood/' might Dick Diver's be viewed as a loss of that quality?
2. Does the European setting for much of the novel contribute to the effect of the book — for example, the clash with the Italian that Dick experiences?
3. One theme of Tender Is the Night is said to be "the tyranny of the weak." Does the relationship between Dick and Nicole really support this claim?
4. In view of modern attitudes, does the "psychology" found in the novel...
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The title comes from a line in John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale”: The poem, with its forlorn images of drinking, fits the character and tone of the book. As a young writer Fitzgerald was profoundly influenced by Keats. While in Italy, in chapter XXII of Book Two, on his way back to his hotel where a note from Rosemary is awaiting him, Dick feels his “spirits soared before the flower stalls and the house where Keats had died.”
Three-Part Narrative Structure Tender Is the Night is divided into three sections, or Books. Although the novel is narrated in the third person, Book One opens from the perspective of Rosemary Hoyt and focuses on the glittering surface of Dick and Nicole Divers’ life. Just as Rosemary is seduced by the glamour and luxury of that life, so is the reader; though, as the perspective evolves, there are hints that not all is well with Nicole and Dick and that the life they lead is not all glitz and glamour.
Book Two moves back in time to reveal what lies beneath the surface of the Divers’ charm. It effectively unveils Nicole’s case history for the reader just as it does the evolution of her relationship to Dick. Finally, in Book Three, Dick is shown trying to make sense of his life. The brilliant sheen of Book One has worn off, and the events told in Book Two have taken their toll, and now, in Book Three, it is time for Dick to move on.
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Compare and Contrast
1920s: Having just experienced the devastating effects of World War I, Europe is working to rebuild its economies and infrastructures.
Today: After the fall of Communism in the 1990s, European countries form the European Union—an economic organization that brings European countries under a consistent monetary system and economic policies. The European Union today has the potential of becoming one of the strongest economic entities in the world.
1930s: Many Americans who amassed fortunes in the stock market surges of the previous decade have lost everything because of the crash of 1929.
Today: After the stock market decline of 2000 and the “dot com” crash, many of the young Americans who became rich with stock options in the 1990s have lost much of their wealth.
1930s: Although many American blacks had relocated to France to avoid the discrimination in the United States, discrimination against blacks still exists, and blacks have a difficult time entering some businesses and public establishments.
Today: Discrimination is illegal in France and is considered a human rights violation.
1930s: By the time Tender Is the Night is published, many readers and critics have come to embrace the new movement of “social realism” in literature and the art.
Today: Social realism is not a viable artistic movement, per se,...
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Topics for Further Study
F. Scott Fitzgerald was part of a group of writers known as the “Lost Generation.” Research the origin of that term and the writers who were included. What did the writers have in common with one another? What made them “lost?”
Tender Is the Night was published in 1934, nine years after Fitzgerald’s previous book, The Great Gatsby, was published. Research some of the events that transpired in the United States and Europe in those nine years. What effects did those changes have on the critical reception of Tender Is the Night? Do you think readers would have responded to the book differently had it been published in 1928? What would have been the differences in their response?
The title of Tender Is the Night comes from the John Keats poem “Ode to a Nightingale.” Analyze Keats’s poem, and explain why Fitzgerald quoted from this poem for his title. What does the title mean? Are there any thematic similarities between the Keats poem and Tender Is the Night?
Many readers view Tender Is the Night as Fitzgerald’s most autobiographical novel. Some see Dick and Nicole Diver as being Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, whereas others believe Fitzgerald intended Albert McKisco and his wife to represent himself and Zelda. Research the life of the Fitzgeralds. Who do you think are most representative of the Fitzgeralds in the book? Why?
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The 1962 film version of the novel (enhanced by a superb background musical score, which was nominated for an Academy Award) starred Jennifer Jones as Nicole, Jason Robards as Dick Diver, and Paul Lukas as the Swiss psychologist who tries to "save" Dick. The movie was directed by Henry King, who achieved some fine visual effects (especially scenes on the Riviera); but, the general critical judgment was that the story moved too slowly, despite several striking episodes, but supplies a seemingly realistic image of Europe in the 1920s.
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In 1955, Tender Is the Night was adapted as an hour-long television special, starring Mercedes McCambridge as Nicole Diver. In 1962, the novel was adapted as a Hollywood film by Henry King. Produced by Twentieth Century Fox Studios, the film stars Jennifer Jones, Jason Robards, Jr., Joan Fontaine, Tom Ewell, and Jill St. John and is available on video. A 1985 three-hour miniseries adaptation, starring Peter Strauss, Edward Asner, and Sean Young was directed by Robert Knight.
A ten-cassette, unabridged reading of the novel was produced by Sterling Audio out of Thorndike, Maine.
Of related interest, “Last Call: The Final Chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” starring Jeremy Irons and Sissy Spacek, was released as a Showtime Original Picture in 2003 and is available on video. This video depicts the last few months of Fiztgerald’s life.
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What Do I Read Next?
The Great Gatsby, along with Tender Is the Night, is considered to be Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Published in 1925, at the height of the U.S. “Jazz Age,” the book tells the tragic story of the rich and elusive Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan.
The Crack Up, a collection of personal writings by Fitzgerald and his contemporaries, is the closest thing to an autobiography of Fitzgerald that exists. First published in 1945 and collected by Edmund Wilson shortly following Fitzgerald’s death, the collection is named after a series of articles Fitzgerald had written for Esquire, offering insight into his own personal bankruptcy.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: In His Own Time is a collection of miscellaneous writings by and about Fitzgerald. Edited by Fitzgerald scholars Matthew J. Bruccoli and Jackson R. Bryer, the book includes college writings and essays by Fitzgerald, as well as reviews of his works, interviews, and several obituaries that were published at his death.
A Life in Letters: F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli and written with the assistance of Judith S. Baughman, collects letters written by Fitzgerald between 1896 and 1940. Published in 1994, this book includes correspondence between Fitzgerald and his editor, Maxwell Perkins, and his many literary friends, and they offer insight into his own views on writing, his alcoholism and financial problems, and his wife’s...
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bruccoli, Matthew Joseph, with Judith S. Baughman, “Introduction,” in Reader’s Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night,” University of South Carolina Press, 1996, pp. 1–48.
Chamberlain, John, “Book of the Times,” in “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism, edited by Marvin LaHood, Indiana University Press, 1969, pp. 68–70; originally published in New York Times, April 13, 1934.
Colum, Mary M., “The Psychopathic Novel,” in “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism, edited by Marvin LaHood, Indiana University Press, 1969, pp. 59–62; originally published in Forum and Century 91, April 1934.
Gray, James, “Scott Fitzgerald Re-Enters, Leading Bewildered Giant,” in “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism, edited by Marvin LaHood, Indiana University Press, pp. 64–66; originally published in St. Paul Dispatch, April 12, 1934.
Gregory, Horace, “A Generation Riding to Romantic Death,” in “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism, edited by Marvin LaHood, Indiana University Press, pp. 72–74; originally published in New York Herald Tribune, April 15, 1934.
Rogers, Cameron, “Fitzgerald’s Novel a Masterpiece,” in “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism, edited by Marvin LaHood, Indiana University Press, 1969, pp. 64–66; originally...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bruccoli, Matthew J. The Composition of “Tender Is the Night”: A Study of the Manuscripts. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963. This definitive study of the text provides a comprehensive analysis of the novel’s seventeen drafts. By chronicling significant changes between versions, Bruccoli offers valuable evidence of the forces that influenced Fitzgerald’s creative process.
Hook, Andrew. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s, 2002. Part of the Literary Lives series. Concise rather than thorough, but with some interesting details.
LaHood, Marvin J., ed. “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969. Offers a wide variety of criticism ranging from discussions of theme, symbolism, and dialogue to psychological topics. Two of the essays discuss connections between Fitzgerald and John Keats.
Metzger, Charles R. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Psychiatric Novel: Nicole’s Case, Dick’s Case. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. An intriguing psychoanalytic study of the novel that examines Nicole’s and Dick’s mental symptoms, discusses the effectiveness of their treatments, and debates whether they recovered from their psychological problems.
Stern, Milton R. Critical Essays on F. Scott...
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