The main characters in the book are Richard (Dick) Diver, a respected psychiatrist, and his wealthy wife, Nicole. In appearance they seem the perfect couple: attractive, loving, and successful. They conduct their lives as one continual celebration, surrounded by their friends, with Dick always in control.
The Divers are, in fact, not as happy as they seem. Nicole suffers from schizophrenia, the result of a brief incestuous relationship with her father. Dick first meets her as his patient and is attracted to her, in part, because of her dependency on him. It is suggested that he never wants her to be completely cured. Moreover, although Dick is regarded as a brilliant doctor, he has never fulfilled his early promise and has begun to devote more of his time to the social life he and Nicole enjoy than to his work.
The book details Dick’s moral collapse. The story is told in such a way as to make Dick appear charming to the reader; he seems to be the master of any occasion. After an introductory section, however, Fitzgerald employs a lengthy flashback to explain the truth of Dick and Nicole’s relationship and to show that neither is what he or she seems. The remainder of the novel traces the unraveling of their marriage as Nicole learns to live on her own terms, and Dick follows his private downward trajectory.
This extremely complex and thoughtful work, Fitzgerald’s last complete novel, draws heavily on his marriage to Zelda...
(The entire section is 576 words.)