Characters Discussed

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Dick Diver

Dick Diver, a brilliant young psychiatrist who inspires confidence in everyone. As a young man, he met a woman who became a patient and whom he married. He devoted most of his time during the next several years to helping her regain a certain normality. In the process of helping his wife, he loses his own self-respect, alienates most of his friends, and drowns his brilliance in alcohol. His professional position deteriorates to that of a general practitioner in successively smaller towns across the United States.

Nicole Warren Diver

Nicole Warren Diver, Dick’s wife, a fabulously rich American. As a young girl, she had an incestuous relationship with her father and subsequently suffered a mental breakdown. She marries Dick while still a patient and is content to let him guide her in all things for several years. When he begins to drink heavily and make scenes in public, she tries to stop him; in doing so, she begins to gain some moral strength of her own. In a short time, she no longer needs Dick, has a brief affair, and divorces Dick to marry her lover. Apparently aware of her part in Dick’s downfall, she continues to be somewhat concerned for him.

Rosemary Hoyt

Rosemary Hoyt, a beautiful young American film actress. Having fallen in love with Dick, who is several years her senior, on their first meeting, she later has a brief affair with him. When she finally recognizes the decline in him, she is powerless to do anything about it. Although she retains her devotion to both of the Divers, she has never really grown up herself and is incapable of acting positively without direction.

Tommy Barban

Tommy Barban, a war hero and professional soldier. Typically cold and unfeeling where most people are concerned, he spends much of his time fighting in various wars. He eventually becomes Nicole’s lover and then her second husband.

Beth Evan (Baby) Warren

Beth Evan (Baby) Warren, Nicole’s older sister. Knowing nothing of the real nature of Nicole’s illness, she feels that the family should buy a doctor to marry and care for her. She never fully approves of Dick because her snobbery makes her feel superior to him. After a succession of quiet, well-mannered affairs, she remains without roots or direction in her life.

Mrs. Elsie Speers

Mrs. Elsie Speers, Rosemary Hoyt’s mother. She devotes her life to making Rosemary a successful actress. She also tries to make her an individual but fails to achieve this goal.

Abe North

Abe North, an unambitious musician, an early friend of the Divers. He goes consistently downhill and is finally murdered.

Mary North

Mary North, Abe’s wife. She is an ineffectual person while married to Abe; later, she makes a more advantageous marriage and fancies herself one of the queens of the international set.

Collis Clay

Collis Clay, a young American friend of Rosemary. Fresh from Yale, he is now studying architecture in Europe and despairs of ever having to go back to Georgia to take over the family business.

Franz Gregorovious

Franz Gregorovious, a Swiss psychiatrist who becomes Dick Diver’s partner in a clinic they establish with Nicole’s money.


Kaethe, his wife, a tactless woman who is envious of Americans and their money.


Gausse, the proprietor of a small hotel on the Riviera where the Divers and their friends often spend their summers.

Mr. and Mrs. McKisco

Mr. and Mrs. McKisco, an American novelist and his wife who, after achieving financial success, lose their sense of inferiority and acquire the superiority and snobbishness typical of the moneyed Americans in the...

(This entire section contains 635 words.)

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Diver set.

Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers

Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers, an English friend of Mary North after her second marriage. She typifies the overbearing attitude of her class.

Themes / Characters

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Tender Is the Night is the story of a man's gradual deterioration and collapse. Dick Diver is a brilliant young psychiatrist when the novel opens, married to a woman who was one of his patients. Their relationship resembles Fitzgerald's and Zelda's, as Diver is both lover and protector to Nicole Warren. Diver is also trapped by the Warren wealth, using their resources to become a partner in a Swiss clinic and unable to avoid the temptations of an extravagant social calendar which is forcing him to neglect his research. He is eventually driven out of his position at the clinic when he loses interest in his profession and turns to alcohol for diversion and surcease. When Nicole leaves Diver for a glamorous European soldier of fortune, he tries to resume his career in America but fades into oblivion as a small-town doctor.

Although Fitzgerald several times protested that the novel should not be judged simply a picture of "Americans abroad," the characters do represent recognizable American "types." Nicole and Dick (while surely based somewhat on the Murphys, with what Andrew Turnbull calls "their organized sensuousness, their fine gradations of charm") clearly represent the author and Zelda — the mention of which, implying a weakness of imagination causing an excessive dependence on simply observed behavior, pained Fitzgerald considerably. Yet, these two essentially idle persons could well stand for a number of American expatriates in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.

Even secondary and tertiary characters, such as the actress Rosemary Hoyt, the professional soldier Tommy Barban, and the crude businessman Albert McKisko, can be viewed as standing for such real persons who almost infested certain areas of the Riviera and similar tourist havens. Much of the essential conflict in the novel stems from the presence of such surrounding characters, who tend to excessively admire the Divers or to criticize and misunderstand them and their eccentric lifestyle.

While Dick's descent into unhappy obscurity (in contrast to Nicole's satisfactory relationship with Tommy) at the close of the book is the essential focus of the novel, the development of Nicole from a spoiled, rich, insecure. even neurotic woman takes an important place in the thematic thrust of the text. Expatriates fascinated Fitzgerald, and he understood the type of person who became such an "uprooted" visitor in a foreign land. Thus, the realization of the alien settings is of great importance in the revelation of the reaction of the various characters to such an influence and to the advancement of the themes of waste and loss, so grimly developed that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings found the book "disturbing, bitter, and beautiful."

Much of the beauty lies in the symmetrical plot, which, though not nearly so tightly woven as that of The Great Gatsby (1925), never strays from Nicole and Dick or the friends and acquaintances (such as the vulgar composer Abe North, whose death upsets the Divers greatly) that affect their lives, including Nicole's sister Baby. The emphasis always remains on the lives of the rising Nicole and the falling Dr. Diver.

Diver's loss of self is presented as a manifestation of the weaknesses that are the shadow side of personal charm and talent. As Matthew Bruccoli astutely observes, "The spectacle of Dick Diver's collapse is harrowing because he is destroyed by the same elements in his character that might have made him a great figure. His heroic aspirations dwindle into a fatal pleasingness." Fitzgerald himself classified Tender is the Night as a philosophical or psychological novel and was pleased when a medical journal touted it as a contribution to an understanding of the psychobiological sources of human behavior. The novel is much less concentrated than The Great Gatsby, but its expansiveness permits Fitzgerald to achieve insights by accumulation and by what he called "lingering after-effects." A mood of sadness and regret pervades the novel, echoing Fitzgerald's own sense of his career at that time of his life.


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Tommy Barban
Half-American, half-European, Tommy Barban is a mercenary soldier with few refined qualities. Without the social or cultural sophistication of the Divers or their other friends, Barban relies on his decisiveness and self-confidence to get by. Barban is introduced as one of Dick and Nicole Divers’ devout friends. In fact, early on, Barban even fights a duel to defend the honor of the Divers. As the plot develops, however, it becomes clear that Barban loves Nicole, and by the end of novel he has successfully taken her away from Dick. He is portrayed by Fitzgerald as a man who knows what he wants, and when it comes time to take Nicole, he does so decisively and without qualms.

Luis Campion
Luis Campion is the effeminate friend of the McKiscos who informs Rosemary Hoyt, at 3 a.m., of the duel that is about to take place between Albert McKisco and Tommy Barbaran.

Prince Chillicheff
A character noted only in passing, Prince Chillicheff is the Russian prince whom Tommy Barban rescues from Russia.

Collis Clay
Collis Clay is a young graduate of Yale and an acquaintance of Rosemary. He tells Dick stories about Rosemary’s past, which sends Dick into fits of sexual jealousy. Clay is also with Dick the night Dick gets drunk and ends up in prison.

Dick Diver
The protagonist of the novel, Dick Diver is a complex, handsome, and brilliant up-and-coming young psychiatrist when he is first introduced. A Rhodes scholar from America who is in Europe to study with the great psychiatrists of the time, he is introduced to Nicole Warren, a wealthy woman and one of the clinic’s patients, by Dr. Dohmler, one of his colleagues at the Zurich clinic, which he has just joined. Dick treats Nicole, and when she shows signs of recovery, against the advice of Dohmler he marries her. It is the marriage of Dick and Nicole around which Tender Is the Night revolves. Although Dick must contend with Nicole’s schizophrenia, for a while the Divers are happily married and gain a reputation for the parties they give and the social set that follows them around. Nicole’s wealth affords the couple a luxury and comfort that Dick himself could never have attained. Over time, however, Dick begins to feel trapped in the relationship, and he becomes attracted to other women. In particular, he impetuously falls in love with the young and talented movie star Rosemary Hoyt. It is with Hoyt that Dick has a long-standing relationship that is fully consummated years after they meet. As one of the more complex characters of the novel, Dick allows his amours and his self-indulgence to get the better of him. Although he eventually comes to the realization that Rosemary is too young and immature for him, by this time alcohol has taken its toll, and Dick’s career has been ruined and his marriage has been destroyed. Utterly alone, he returns to America and gradually disappears somewhere in upstate New York, far from the Europe that has indulged his fancy for years.

Although he is a psychiatrist and not a writer, Dick is seen as a fictional projection of Fitzgerald himself. Like Fitzgerald, Dick is a rising star in his field at a young age, and like Fitzgerald, who married the psychologically troubled Zelda Sayre, Dick marries the schizophrenically-inclined Nicole Driver. And finally, like his creator, Dick becomes a serious alcoholic and watches his vast talents waste away until he himself disappears.

Lanier Diver
Lanier Diver is Dick and Nicole’s son. He plays a minor role in the novel.

Nicole Diver
Nicole Diver, born Nicole Warren, is the daughter of the wealthy Chicago magnate Devereux Warren. Barely eighteen years of age when she is introduced to Dick Diver, one of the clinic’s new practitioners, she has been diagnosed at the Zurich clinic where she is a patient as “tending towards schizophrenic.” One of the sources of her illness is the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her father shortly after her mother’s death, a theme that is played out throughout the novel. Despite her illness, she grows to fall in love with Dick, marries him, and has two children. It is with her wealth that she and Dick come to be regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful and sophisticated couples. Despite the air of cultural sophistication she projects, Nicole is portrayed as a weak and pathetic character. Throughout her life she has been at the complete mercy of other people. First it is her father, who sexually abuses her and sends her off to live in a European clinic; then Dr. Gregorovius and Dick, who treats her for her psychological problems; and throughout her recovery, her sister, Baby Warren, who controls her finances. At the end of the novel, when Dick’s affairs and drinking have become too much for Nicole to live with, she is “rescued” by Tommy Barban, with whom she has an affair and marries.

In many ways, Nicole is the fictional representation of Zelda Sayre, Fitzgerald’s wife. Sayre, the daughter of an Alabaman judge, suffered from years of psychological problems during her marriage to Fitzgerald, which is seen by many to be one of the causes of the writer’s declining writing abilities, his financial problems, and his severe drinking.

Topsy Diver
Topsy is Dick and Nicole’s daughter, about whom very little is written.

Dr. Dohmler
Dr. Dohmler is the psychologist who initially handles Nicole’s case at the Zurich clinic that Dick first joins. It is Dohlmer who urges Dick to terminate his relationship with Nicole.

T. F. Golding
T. F. Golding owns a yacht that is moored near the Divers’ villa. He is hosting the party on his yacht to which Dick invites himself and Nicole to shortly after their return from Zurich.

Dr. Franz Gregorovius
Dr. Gregory Gregorovius is a German psychologist and one of Dick’s colleagues. With Nicole’s money, Dick opens up a clinic with Gregorovius, but when Dick begins to lose control of his drinking and patients begin to complain, Gregorovius buys the clinic from him.

Rosemary Hoyt
Rosemary Hoyt is the successful seventeenyear- old film actress with whom Dick Diver has an affair. Only seventeen when she first meets the Divers, she is vacationing with her mother and taking a break from just having starred in the Hollywood hit Daddy’s Girl. It is Rosemary who immediately falls for Dick, and it is her mother who urges her to follow through on her feelings. Although she maintains a cordial and even respectful relationship with Nicole during her affair with Dick, she is, in the end, the primary reason for the dissolution of Dick and Nicole’s marriage.

Controlled by a domineering and amoral mother, Rosemary is portrayed as a polite, naïve young woman who is clearly a virgin when she first meets the Divers, but several years later, when Dick follows her to Italy during the shooting of a new film, it is clear that she has lost much of that innocence. It is in Italy that her relationship with Dick is willingly consummated. Dick eventually admits to himself that she is too young and immature for him, and Rosemary likewise realizes that she no longer has any interest in Dick.

Albert McKisco
Albert McKisco fancies himself as an American intellectual and writer, when the book opens. Following a duel with Tommy Barban, he actually grows to become a highly successful novelist in America.

Violet McKisco
Violet McKisco is the social-climbing, obnoxious wife of Albert McKisco. She is constantly described as clinging to her husband and praising his intellect and writing abilities.

Conte di Minghetti
Conte di Minghetti marries Mary North following Abe North’s death.

Abe North
Abe North is a close friend of Dick Diver and is described as once having been a brilliant musician, although there is some disagreement among Diver’s friends as to that description. A severe alcoholic, he often drinks himself into oblivion and finds himself immersed in troubles of his own doing. He is eventually killed in a fight in a speakeasy.

Mary North
Mary North is Abe North’s wife, who helplessly watches Abe drink his life away. After Abe is killed in the bar fight, Mary marries the wealthy Conte di Minghetti.

Jules Peterson
Jules Peterson, a black man, is one of the victims of Abe North’s drinking. Under mysterious circumstances, he is found dead in Rosemary’s hotel room—a death that is attributed to events surrounding North’s drinking the night before.

Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers
Lady Caroline is a thin, petite, good-looking British woman whom Dick meets on Golding’s yacht and proceeds to insult. Later, Dick rescues Lady Caroline, along with Mary di Minghetti, from prison for picking up a woman while impersonating a man.

Mrs. Elsie Speers
Mrs. Elsie Speers is the mother and business agent of her daughter, Rosemary hoyt. After her second husband’s death, she put all of her savings into Rosemary’s career, and she sees herself not only as Rosemary’s mother but also as her friend and business agent. It is she who prods Rosemary to pursue a relationship with the married Dick Driver. Speers’s purpose in life is to provide her daughter with the support needed to become an emotionally and financially independent woman, experienced in the ways of the world—no matter the cost to the people around her.

Maria Wallis
Maria Wallis snubs Nicole at the train station just before she kills an American woman with a revolver.

Baby Warren
One of the more coldhearted and manipulative women in Tender Is the Night is Nicole Diver’s older sister, Baby Warren. A spinster who lives in England, she is a true snob who makes it known at every available opportunity that she believes the English represent the finest the world has to offer. She is a woman who literally retreats from human touch. Baby Warren is in charge of her family’s vast resources, and she uses that money to make certain that Nicole is taken care of. At one point she suggests to Dick Diver that she buy a Chicago doctor for Nicole to marry, and it is through her manipulation that Dick and Nicole travel alone together—a trip that leads to the couple’s marriage. Baby Warren also knows that she holds the purse strings Dick needs to continue his lifestyle, and although she does not necessarily approve of Dick’s marriage to Nicole, she ultimately wants what is best for her sister, and she is willing and very able to use Dick to those ends.

Devereux Warren
Devereux Warren is the wealthy Midwestern businessman who loses his wife and sexually abuses his daughter, Nicole. An alcoholic himself, he places Nicole into the Zurich mental clinic before returning to America. Fitzgerald portrays him as a weak and vile man.




Critical Essays