Tender Is the Night (1934)

Dana Biggers on “Expatriates in Tender Is the Night

Tender Is the Night takes place in Paris and is told in three separate points of view. The first part we have told from Rosemary Hoyt’s point of view which is mostly her meeting and falling in love with the main male character Dick Diver. This first section of the novel is also heavily detailed with the differences between Americans and Europeans and from the start F. Scott Fitzgerald heavily suggests that Europe is more sophisticated than America. This is also to differentiate between the “tanned” group and the “pale” group which Rosemary has contact with. Even though both groups are originally from America, it is the tanned group that appears like they belong. Rosemary’s point of view in the beginning is the best way to start since it tells the story through a camera lens. She romanticizes the couple, Dick and Nicole, and makes them appear as they are but not what lies beneath the surface. The perspective actively asserts this idealized lifestyle that the Diver’s have molded into what they want to be seen as.

This lens is lifted in the second part when the story shifts to Dick’s point of view and the reader is shown just how dysfunctional the couple really is. These second and third parts show his downward spiral as he loses control of his life and himself which is seen in the different stages from playful avant garde vitality to degeneration and ultimately loneliness. As the story continues, the reader is shown that the hopeful love stories that were seen in the Victorian era are clearly gone and replaced with a cynicism about life and a broken family rather than that solidity and perfect place which are common themes and characteristics in modernism. Each character, Dick, Nicole, and Rosemary, begin to question their own identity, such is the way with expatriates.

Since majority of the book is told in Dick’s point of view, it is easier to see his change of self and decline much like Fitzgerald did in real life. Diver is seen as a control freak and as he begins to lose control he finds comfort at the bottom of a bottle. This is seen numerous times throughout the book and in the parties the Diver’s host where he wants “to give a really bad party … a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going about home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette” (Fitzgerald 27). In order to obtain this goal, Dick has perfected the skill of manipulating his guests so that “he won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect” (27-28). Dick’s decline begins with the affair with Rosemary, much like Fitzgerald’s decline started with Zelda’s affair with the aviator. His experience with Zelda’s insanity mirrors the emotions and experiences of the American expatriate Dick Diver. These two characters are one in the same from their alcohol abuse to their failing marriages, and even criticizing their friends. Fitzgerald loses his masculinity after Zelda’s affair and begins to question his self in comparison to Dick’s loss of self when his affair begins with Rosemary and again when his wife leaves him for another man. These comparisons and themes throughout the story are the epitome of the lost generation.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1995.

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