F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoön
by Robert Sklar

Chapter ten

In the spring of 1932 F. Scott Fitzgerald prepared a long preliminary sketch for Tender Is the Night. “The novel should do this…,” he began his “General Plan,” and though he borrowed the language of this self-injunction from another writer's book, in the context its imperative tone was wholly new and all his own. He had been working on the novel, after all, for almost seven years. Back in 1925 he had proclaimed it would be “something really NEW in form, idea, structure—the model for the age that Joyce and Stein are searching for, that Conrad didn't find”; and thereafter this boast and this desire had weighed like a false crown upon his mind. His conception of what he ought to write—a model for the age, yes, and also a work to vindicate himself after The Great Gatsby's disappointing popular reception—held him like an anchor to plans and ambitions that were far removed from his own talent and inclination. He thought he would write a profound social novel, like Crime and Punishment or An American Tragedy built upon a murder; better yet, a matricide. In seven years he produced a string of sketches on American expatriate life in Europe in the twenties. As the gap widened between ambition and idea, between idea and accomplishment, as Ernest Hemingway grew in critical reputation and popular appeal far to overshadow him, Fitzgerald's novel faded more and more out of the realm of possibility. He worked on it during infrequent spurts, a little in 1925 and 1926, a brief flurry in 1929, a last effort in 1930 to salvage perhaps something from the hopes of half a decade. Six separate versions of the novel have been counted through these years before Fitzgerald wrote his “General Plan”; hundreds of discarded manuscript pages survive from these early drafts. Yet with all this effort and frustration, Tender Is the Night was not truly begun until Fitzgerald cut loose from his grand conceptions and vanished hopes and specified “The novel should do this.”

After seven years of difficulties, Fitzgerald at last committed himself in the “General Plan” to ground his novel, not on ambition, but on emotion. “Whether it's something that happened twenty years ago or only yesterday,” Fitzgerald in an essay explained the lesson of those years, “I must start out with an emotion—one that's close to me and that I can understand.” To approach the fullest meanings of The Great Gatsby it had been necessary to recognize its long foreground of development in Fitzgerald's mind and art. But for Tender Is the Night one must rather lay aside the long years of occasional labor and dwindling hopes that comprise the history of the novel from 1925 to 1932. Sitting down in 1932 to write his “General Plan,” the author freshly conceived his novel, and prepared to write a work of art completely new.


“The novel should do this,” Fitzgerald began his sketch: “Show a man who is a natural idealist, a spoiled priest, giving in for various causes to the ideas of the haute bourgeoisie, and in his rise to the top of the social world losing his idealism, his talent and turning to drink and dissipation. Background one in which the leisure class is at their truly most brilliant and glamorous such as Murphys.” It is difficult now to read these lines as Fitzgerald meant them, for “spoiled priest” so long has served as metaphor and touchstone for his own career. In its application to Fitzgerald, though, “spoiled priest” has lost its precise meaning as the term describing a candidate for the priesthood who failed to take his vows. Rather it has taken on a sentimental aura, as if it described a Roman Catholic moralist more moral than the Church, a holy renegade, the sinner so much sweeter than the saint. Of course, as Fitzgerald used the term in his sketch—and even more as he created the character of Richard Diver for Tender Is the Night—it does quite clearly suggest all that and more. But Fitzgerald also called his character a “natural idealist,” a phrase far less suggestive and therefore far more useful for an understanding of his intentions in the new novel. For Richard Diver turned out to be the son of a Protestant clergyman; and in his character as a “natural idealist” he is less a “spoiled priest,” an Irish romantic like Joyce's Stephen Daedalus, than he is that central figure from Fitzgerald's youth and from his fiction, the genteel American romantic hero.

From the beginning of his career Fitzgerald had used the genteel romantic hero almost as his mannequin, a figure he could dress up in each of the literary and intellectual styles he tried. In most of his popular short stories he took the figure as he came, fully clothed in the moral and social values of late-nineteenth-century genteel America. There he was the deserving young man who by his strong will and clever imagination nicely preserves social stability while he fulfills romantic dreams. But in his novels Fitzgerald tried to replace the genteel modes with more modern styles of life. Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise broke with genteel society in order to commit himself to a constructive individualism; Anthony Patch of The Beautiful and Damned found nothing to commit himself to and fell victim to fashionable indifference. At that point Fitzgerald had stripped himself of either negative or positive alternatives to the genteel romantic hero; and it was then that he was able to work his way through to a conception in The Great Gatsby of the genteel romantic hero as a creative, tragic figure. With Jay Gatsby the genteel romantic hero attained his apotheosis. No wonder Fitzgerald was anxious thereafter to free himself from a stereotype he had explored and re-created seemingly to its artistic limits. He had not completely turned his back on stereotypes, though, as his prologue to “The Rich Boy”—“There are no types, no plurals”—might have indicated. For even before he had completed “The Rich Boy,” he had given his new novel the tentative title Our Type. But if he planned to create stereotypes in his novel at least he was working with new ones.-

Over the five years he worked on the novel, however, Fitzgerald was never able to bring his new type precisely into focus. What emerges from the discarded manuscripts is a figure who suggests a modern counterpart to the myth of Edgar Allan Poe. Francis Melarky, the central character of Our Type, was a Southerner who had been dismissed from West Point, then worked as a technician in Hollywood. Traveling abroad with his mother, Francis first is beaten up during a drunken brawl in Rome, then falls in with an American social set on the Riviera where, unable to work, he dips deeper into habits of waste and dissipation. He falls in love with the wife of a man whose social manner he greatly admires. At that point the manuscript ends. According to Fitzgerald's plans, Francis would then have suffered a nervous breakdown, and, taunted into rage by his domineering mother, he would have killed her. The new type, from this account, was to have been a temperamental, frustrated artist (or pseudo-artist, or technician of the arts), wasted by drink and sloth, mentally broken and a little mad, until finally he became a matricide.

But a precise characterization of Francis Melarky—that curious name, combining autobiography with Irish nonsense—was hardly ever Fitzgerald's major interest in his work in progress. “Our Type is about several things,” Fitzgerald wrote in August 1925 to Maxwell Perkins, “one of which is an intellectual murder on the Leopold-Loeb idea. Incidentally it is about Zelda and me and the hysteria of last May and June in Paris.” From the first, then, Fitzgerald planned to combine his story of a murder with a picture of a social setting and atmosphere. A few weeks later he received a jolt that, from our retrospective knowledge of his failure to complete the novel, could only have placed the entire conception of a murder-matricide novel in doubt. In December 1925, Theodore Dreiser published An American Tragedy. Within two weeks the novel had sold more than 13,000 copies, and reviewers were greeting it as the greatest American novel of the decade. Dreiser's popular and critical success with a murder novel on a social theme left Fitzgerald holding an empty bag of expectations he may well have suspected could never now be filled. “In a certain sense,” he wrote Perkins in February 1926, “my plot is not unlike Dreiser's in the American Tragedy. At first this worried me but now it doesn't for our minds are so different.” No matter how much his plot resembled Dreiser's, Fitzgerald knew his hero would be a far different type from Dreiser's Clyde Griffith. Clyde rather was much closer in character to James Gatz-Jay Gatsby, aspiring young men who shared the same poor, Midwestern background. But even as he defended his conception against competition from Dreiser, Fitzgerald was slowly letting it slip away. Early in 1926 he came up with an alternative title, The World's Fair, suggesting an emphasis on the place and the atmosphere far more than on character. And in what he actually wrote on the novel, mood and setting play far more important roles than does the character Francis Melarky. Fitzgerald apparently never wrote the scenes in which Melarky was to be mad or murderous, and in the scenes he did write Melarky appears primarily as a bystander and observer of a wider social scene. After he had just completed a novel that T. S. Eliot called “the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James,” Fitzgerald seemed on his way to writing a novel about Americans abroad, filtered through the eyes of an involved observer, much as James had done in Roderick Hudson and in Daisy Miller. Though the idea of a matricide remained until Fitzgerald discarded the entire project, the concept of a new character had long since disappeared. From the early manuscripts to the “General Plan” for Tender Is the Night, Fitzgerald shifted from a novel essentially about American expatriate life to a novel about the genteel American hero abroad. Our Type had never really been his type.

The genteel romantic hero in one of his disguises played a supporting role in the new novel almost from its conception; and true to his type he seemed to liven up his part and dominate the scene. For a month in the late summer of 1925 Fitzgerald had stayed with Gerald and Sara Murphy at their Villa America near Antibes, which they had established as a social center for expatriate American writers, musicians, and artists. When Fitzgerald had informed Perkins in August of his plans for the new novel, his vision of the American expatriate atmosphere was “Zelda and me and the hysteria of last May and June in Paris.” But by the time he actually began to write he had shifted the scene to a Riviera setting modeled on the Murphys'. In the novel the Murphys were re-created first as the Rorebacks and then as Seth and Dinah Piper—like Henry James before him Fitzgerald was now more openly than ever trying out symbolic names. Seth and Dinah were to be throwbacks or “roarbacks” to an earlier, more graceful world of manners in America, or “pipers” leading the American expatriate colony back to that lost lovely world; and as Fitzgerald had conceived his work as a novel of manners, the Pipers more and more engrossed his creative interest and attention. In his novel he was never willing completely to grant the validity of their style or their world, though Francis Melarky fell deeply under their spell and as a principal character faded slowly into their shadow. He appears in the discarded manuscripts less as a character in his own right and more as an observing chorus, a Nick Carraway to their Gatsby. He was in love with Dinah Piper and wholly an admirer of Seth, whose step in Melarky's eyes “was quick and alert as if he had just come from some great doings and was hurrying on toward others, organizer of gaiety, master of a richly encrusted, esoteric happiness. His hat was a grand hat and he carried a heavy stick and thin yellow gloves. Francis thought what a good time everyone would have who was with him tonight, and the aura of Seth's good taste cooled his blood for a moment. 'Yes,' he said to himself, 'they're the most attractive people in the world. Absolutely perfect.'” Yet Fitzgerald did not want the reader to take Melarky's point of view for granted. In another portion of the manuscript Abe Grant says to Francis, “Young man, don't get the idea that Seth asks so little. He's lived all his life on better minds than himself. There's not an idea or an attitude of his that you can't trace to somebody or something—the St. Marks School-Harvard-Porcellian attitude, Legendre the painter, and Parkinson, the works of Coué which is probably the only book he ever read, my ideas about music until somebody put him on to Antheil.” Neither man was to be accepted completely at face value; each had particular needs and motives which limited his personal point of view. But Fitzgerald was never able in the early manuscripts to go deeper into the strengths and weaknesses of the Pipers' social style. Toward the Pipers he lacked at this point his own organizing point of view; and his conception of the novel, tugged at on one side by the requirements of the matricide plot and on the other by his growing interest in the characters of Seth and Dinah Piper, gradually was pulled to pieces. The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of Seth Piper, the genteel romantic hero in a new incarnation.

For more than five years Seth Piper was a dead end, a character whose immense significance Fitzgerald could intuit but not yet grasp. But his conventional short fiction, which he began writing again in the summer of 1927, provided him surprisingly with a multiplicity of open ends, and there he experimented with the genteel romantic hero in a variety of roles. As variations on the old and ever-present theme of the genteel romantic hero, where the relative success or failure of one story matters less than the shape of styles and meanings in the stories as a group, Fitzgerald's short fiction from The Great Gatsby to Tender Is the Night falls into strikingly new and different patterns. It was as if, after creating in The Great Gatsby his tragic vision of the genteel romantic hero, Fitzgerald had to break it up into its parts and test the parts again before he would try to put it together once more in Tender Is the Night. Two stereotypes of his hero dominate the stories, stereotypes divided perfectly, in the stories that matter, along chronological lines. The first stereotype takes shape like a hemisphere around the pole of Gatsby, the second is formed, from this perspective, as a hemisphere around the pole of Richard Diver; on either side of the equatorial line stand “The Swimmers” and “Two Wrongs,” two stories Fitzgerald wrote during the summer and fall of 1929.

The genteel romantic stereotype that formed around the pole of Gatsby was a man who had attained prominence and power in life, who had succeeded, moreover, as a businessman or a football hero, as a movie star or a playwright, because he possessed exceptional qualities of stability and self-control. But as he comes alive in Fitzgerald's fictional world a woman also enters his life, a woman who by design or not upsets its careful balance. Passion flares up, and threatens disorder to the whole organized social and moral structure of the hero's life. Passion passes, or is unfulfilled, and he is left to restore his order as best he can. Each of the seven versions of this figure manages one way or another to repair the rent and survive the crisis. In the most memorable of the stories, “Jacob's Ladder,” Jacob Booth substitutes the synthetic passion of the movies for the real passion of which life has frustrated him. Two other single men, Dolly Harlan in “The Bowl” and Tom Squires in “At Your Age,” reassert stability respectively by two different forms of the conventional happy ending, one by replacing a false woman with a true one, the other by a sentimental renunciation. Three others, Bill Frothingham in “The Love Boat,” George Hannaford in “Magnetism,” and Adrian Smith in “The Rough Crossing,” all married men whose marriages seem momentarily at the breaking point, restore an equilibrium that seems no more than fragile and temporary. The last of these figures, Henry Marston in “The Swimmers,” brings this genteel romantic stereotype to a climax and slightly alters it. By solving the crisis in his life Henry does not simply restore his old order, he builds a new one. All seven of his figures are men of will and creative imagination, in conformity with Fitzgerald's older stereotype of the genteel romantic hero; but they imagine love as a means to some more remote and essential end, unlike the earlier conventional heroes who looked upon love as an end in itself, a reward for success in their clever maneuvers. In these seven stories imagination creates disorder, and the power of the will must be used to paste order together again. Only Henry Marston of these seven has at his disposal the natural and social resources to create a brand new order; and “The Swimmers” was the last of Fitzgerald's short stories in which the hero was a man of will.

The second genteel romantic stereotype, in the stories after “The Swimmers,” was a man who either lacked will or had lost it. “Two Wrongs,” the story Fitzgerald wrote right after “The Swimmers,” represents the transition. Bill McChesney begins as a man of will, but his imagination—which took specific form as excessive drinking and social climbing—brings about a family tragedy. Thereafter he renounces his will and resigns himself to approaching death. This new stereotype portrays a figure who either is unable to exercise will, or fails when he tries to do so. What frustrates him is the past—past attitudes, past habits, past misdeeds. Gatsby wanted to repeat the past but could not; now it is as if the hero must repeat the past because he is powerless to alter its consequences. Michael Curley of “The Bridal Party,” though he became rich, seemed to prefer the attitudes he had formed in his days of poverty. Tommy McLane of “Indecision” cannot choose between a young girl and an older woman with a past. Nelson Kelly of “One Trip Abroad” and Dick Ragland of “A New Leaf” were trapped by habits they had formed and could not break; there was no such thing as a “new leaf.” Charlie Wales of “Babylon Revisited” had succeeded in reforming himself; but past misdeeds still exerted control over his will. The past triumphed completely in “Crazy Sunday,” where Joel Coles is frustrated not by his own past but by memories of other pasts; the willful hero was the victim, finally, of history.

In “The Swimmers,” in which the last of the willful heroes appeared, history had come to his aid as a guide and a resource; in “Crazy Sunday,” where Joel Coles was a man unable to act by his own will, history proved his undoing. Fitzgerald's attitude toward history in the stories he wrote after 1927 was shaped by his reading of Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West. Spengler provided a historical and philosophical underpinning for Fitzgerald's pervasive concern with money; it was the emphasis on money, Spengler said, that gave contemporary civilization its distinctive character, and made it different from the culture of the past. Henry Marston in “The Swimmers” had drawn on the past for his powers of will; in his person historical culture overcame the money values of the new civilization.

But curiously Fitzgerald could not envision Henry carrying on this unity of power and value in the country where it was forged. Understanding and loving his country as never before, Henry nevertheless at the end of the story returns to Europe. Though his victory had been real, a triumph of culture over money-oriented civilization, the future that Fitzgerald created for him was evasively sentimental: so much insight gained, so much power expended, for the possibility of romance with an eighteen-year-old girl. In “The Swimmers” Fitzgerald had seen a way for the willful hero to overcome the power of money, but he had not been able to envision a social setting in which the genteel hero effectively could live. Henry Marston's new order was real, but irrelevant. Thereafter in Fitzgerald's stories the genteel romantic hero hardly put up a fight against money, even when the money was his own. He had succumbed at last to the forces of history.

In “Six of One—,” the last story Fitzgerald wrote in Europe, he stood back as it were and looked down on his generation from the long, historical view. They had had to pay a price, the older man muses. Youth gave them too much. But though it gave them great opportunities it gave them no responsibilities, and so in later life they lacked the seriousness to accomplish much. They had been wasted; yet the old man still feels that the republic can push them aside and go on. From Fitzgerald's first response to Spengler early in 1927 to the last story he wrote before ending his expatriation, the feeling had grown in him not that America had failed the genteel romantic hero, but that in some way the genteel romantic hero had failed his own American race. Yet as the old man in “Six of One—” said, “After all, any given moment has its value; it can be questioned in the light of after-events, but the moment remains… the moment of beauty was there.” As his concentration shifted between the glamor of Seth Piper's life in the uncompleted novel and the failures of the genteel heroes in his stories, Fitzgerald gradually was becoming aware of a way to bring the two, the beauty and the failure, together in one social and individual unity. But the path was opened for him, not by his renewed interest in history, but by a newly developed interest in the literary psychology of D. H. Lawrence and the abnormal psychology of Carl Gustav Jung.

Spengler's historical perspective, after all, could give Fitzgerald a context for the decline of the genteel romantic hero but could tell him little about the content, the manner, and the movement of the fall. “He's lived all his life on better minds than himself,” as Abe Grant said of Seth Piper in The World's Fair, trying to puncture Francis Melarky's inflated vision of the genteel hero. “There's not an idea or an attitude of his that you can't trace to somebody or something.” Had Fitzgerald been satisfied with Henry Marston's triumph in “The Swimmers” he could have fused it with the expatriate social setting of the novel and permitted Henry and his girl to live there on the Riviera, happily ever after. Dick Diver in Tender Is the Night may be recognized, in his personal qualities, as a combination of Henry Marston's rapport with the past and with nature, and of Seth Piper's social grace and skill. But Dick Diver does not live on the Riviera happily ever after. For an understanding of the internal flaws of his genteel romantic hero, Fitzgerald had to look, not to history, but to studies of individual minds and emotions.

The circumstances of Fitzgerald's new interest in psychology are obviously connected with Zelda Fitzgerald's mental breakdown and with his subsequent effort to understand her difficulties and to assist in her cure. But though his interests came eventually to focus on Zelda's illness it is not quite clear whether they originated with it. “Then Powell Fowler and his wedding party arrived,” Fitzgerald wrote to Maxwell Perkins in May 1930, “and I got unfortunately involved in dinners and nightclubs and drinking; then Zelda got a sort of nervous breakdown from overwork and consequently I haven't done a line of work or written a letter for twenty-one days.” But apparently he had found time to read. “Have you read The Story of San Michèle and D. H. Lawrence's Fantasia of the Unconscious?he immediately went on. “Don't miss either of them.” There is sufficient evidence that Fitzgerald read both these books and that they were as important in his development toward Tender Is the Night as was his concern over his wife's illness.

The Story of San Michèle hardly ranks in importance with Lawrence's Fantasia, or with Fitzgerald's later reading of Jung, yet it may have provided Fitzgerald with a point of view he might not have attained otherwise. The Story of San Michèle was the autobiography of a Swedish doctor, Alex Munthe, who practiced on a fashionable clientele in Paris and later founded a clinic on Capri. On its publication in 1929 the book became an astonishing best-seller in England and America, and with hindsight one can readily recognize the qualities that made it popular: Munthe's courage and his modesty, his adventures and his love of animals, his mysticism and his form of popular psychology. Perhaps more important, he was also a talented spinner of yarns. Fitzgerald apparently read the book early in 1930, but in April 1931, in a letter to John Peale Bishop, he compared one of Bishop's stories unfavorably to Munthe's autobiography, ” 'Death and Young Desire' doesn't come off,” he wrote, “—as for instance the handling of the same theme in The Story of San Michèle.” For Fitzgerald then, The Story of San Michèle possessed at least some of the qualities of art. But what may have mattered more to him about Munthe's story was that a book about a doctor could be so immensely popular. In the classic American novels, medical men had been villains and destroyers. Chillingworth in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter and Sloper in Henry James's Washington Square were cast as cold-hearted men of science, insensitive to human values. Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith had broken through this stereotype in 1925; but Arrowsmith was published a month before Gatsby, and for competitive reasons, as well as for reasons of literary taste, Fitzgerald regarded it with disdain. In the course of Zelda's illness, Fitzgerald came to know many physicians, and it was this firsthand experience which underlay his portrait of Dick Diver as a medical man. Yet Munthe's book, more than any other, had shown him that a well-told story about a doctor could be enormously popular, and it may have been with Munthe's success in mind that he made his hero in the new novel a physician, and called the book at one point in its composition, Doctor Divers Holiday.

How Fitzgerald came, early in 1930, to read D. H. Lawrence is far less clear. Fantasia of the Unconscious, published originally in 1922, was neither recent nor popular. It is unlikely that Fitzgerald had previously read much, if any, of Lawrence's fiction, and a single reference to Lawrence in his letters of the twenties suggested that he knew Lawrence only as an influence on Sherwood Anderson, as the romantic naturalist of Sons and Lovers. Yet whether he was led to the Fantasia by chance or by someone's suggestion, the choice was one of extraordinary importance for the development of Tender Is the Night. Lawrence and Fitzgerald were never so far apart in their fundamental views—particularly as critics of Victorian values—as their styles of life and the nature of their fiction might suggest; and Fantasia of the Unconscious focused even more than Studies in Classic American Literature on the psychological and moral issues in American culture which at the beginning of 1930 Fitzgerald himself was striving to master.

From Fitzgerald's perspective, Fantasia of the Unconscious was most significantly a study of the relationship between creativity and sex. To Lawrence, Freud's emphasis on sex as the root of human behavior was a fine attack on orthodox religious idealism, but to raise sex, through scientific logic, to the status of a first cause seemed to Lawrence equally as foolish as orthodox religion. There was a motive in human behavior, Lawrence said, more important and more dynamic than sex.

And what is this other, greater impulse? It is the desire of the human male to build a world: not “to build a world for you, dear”; but to build up out of his own self and his own belief and his own effort something wonderful. Not merely something useful. Something wonderful. Even the Panama Canal would never have been built simply to let ships through. It is the pure disinterested craving of the human male to make something wonderful, out of his own head and his own self, and his own soul's faith and delight, which starts everything going. This is the prime motivity. And the motivity of sex is subsidiary to this: often directly antagonistic.

So for Lawrence “the essentially religious or creative motive is the first motive for all human activity.” The aim of Lawrence's psychological theory was to find a synthesis for creative idealism and the sex drive. The trouble with modern society was that it held sex and idealism separate at two poles.

Sex as an end in itself is a disaster: a vice. But an ideal purpose which has no roots in the deep sea of passionate sex is a greater disaster still. And now we have only these two things: sex as a fatal goal, which is the essential theme of modern tragedy: or ideal purpose as a deadly parasite. Sex passion as a goal in itself always leads to tragedy. There must be the great purposive inspiration always present. But the automatic ideal-purpose is not even a tragedy, it is a slow humiliation and sterility.

For Lawrence the consequences of this tragic situation were directly felt in the relations between the sexes. In his polar theory the normal poles of action and emotion had been in modern life reversed. “In fulfilling the Christian love ideal… Man has assumed the gentle, all-sympathetic role, and woman has become the energetic party, with the authority in her hands. The male is the sensitive, sympathetic nature, the woman the active, effective, authoritative. So that the male acts as the passive, or recipient pole of attraction, the female as the active, positive, exertive pole, in human relations.” Though man remains the doer and thinker, Lawrence maintains, “he is so only in the service of emotional and procreative woman. His highest moment is now the emotional moment when he gives himself up to the woman, when he forms the perfect answer for her great emotional and procreative asking… Man becomes the emotional party, woman the positive and active. Man begins to show strong signs of the peculiarly strong passive sex desire, the desire to be taken, which is considered characteristic of woman.” And nowhere is this crisis more acute than in America, which lacks an organic class structure to protect against the social anarchy caused by this reversal of polar roles. “Americans must make a choice,” Lawrence wrote. “It is a choice between belief in man's creative, spontaneous soul, and man's automatic power of production and reproduction. It is a choice between serving man, or woman. It is a choice between yielding the soul to a leader, leaders, or yielding only to the woman, wife, mistress, or mother.”

Lawrence's description of modern sexual relations corresponds closely with the conventional patterns of genteel romantic behavior that Fitzgerald followed in his popular stories and re-created in The Great Gatsby as national myth and tragedy. Though the genteel formula emphasized male willfulness, Lawrence made clear that its form of willfulness was simply one aspect of the man's more fundamental subjugation by the woman; and it may have been that Lawrence's emphasis on the male's passive role influenced Fitzgerald in his stories between 1930 and 1932 to deny the genteel romantic hero the powers of his independent will. Lawrence sharpened and reinforced Fitzgerald's perception of the nature of the situation. But Fitzgerald had supplied his own social explanation, and Lawrence provided him with no additional psychological explanation for it. Even after reading Lawrence, Fitzgerald had yet to find a firm psychological foundation for the treatment of the genteel romantic hero he had been moving toward in his art. It remained for the tragedy of Zelda Fitzgerald's mental illness to put him in contact with the psychological theories of Carl Gustav Jung.

Jung was in the American air in the twenties as Freud was, and Fitzgerald had not been unaware of either. But his relationship to the psychoanalytic fad among literary intellectuals suggests once more how deep his roots were in the past, how closely he stood, in the decade he was supposed to have symbolized, to conservative, old-fashioned values. In one of his stories that best represents conventional genteel formulas, “The Unspeakable Egg,” written in 1924, a New York psychoanalyst is satirized as a pompously ineffectual figure. In “The Adjuster” the psychiatrist Doctor Moon reminds the heroine of her human and social responsibilities, and thus serves as an instrument of conventional social control. Yet Fitzgerald's unwillingness to adopt the modish uses of psychoanalytic theory implies neither indifference nor lack of awareness. Just as Fitzgerald came belatedly to the modern movement in the arts, approaching it from his own perspective to serve his own artistic purposes, so he came later than others to grasp the significance of psychoanalysis, but he grasped it significantly on his own terms and with his own aims firmly in mind.

In Fitzgerald's preference for Jung over Freud there is an internal consistency that hindsight may explain—Jung's emphasis on the collective unconscious, on the social rather than the biological foundations of human behavior, corresponds both with Fitzgerald's social awareness and with the historical view of human cultures Fitzgerald had learned from Oswald Spengler. But at that time Fitzgeralds interest in Jung developed more likely by chance. From Paris, where Zelda Fitzgerald suffered her mental breakdown, she was moved to a clinic in Switzerland. When her case was diagnosed as schizophrenia, she was admitted to a sanitarium at Prangins, near Geneva. At Prangins she was under the care of Dr. Oscar Forel, a psychotherapist closely connected with the Zurich school of psychiatry, of which Jung was the leader. At one point Forel called in for consultations the psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, the second most important figure of the Zurich school and one of the pioneers in the diagnosis of schizophrenia. Moreover, Bleuler had been one of the founders of the Swiss movement for clinical treatment of alcoholism, a type of therapy that the Kellys experienced in “One Trip Abroad” and Charlie Wales in “Babylon Revisited,” both written after Zelda entered Prangins. During the fifteen months his wife remained at Prangins, Fitzgerald lived mainly in Lausanne, where he occasionally met people who were studying with the Zurich school of psychiatrists. In Lausanne, sometime in 1931, Fitzgerald obtained a copy of Jung's Psychological Types. He also came to own Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious.

What Fitzgerald learned from his reading in the works of Jung and in his conversations with Jung's students is a matter open only to speculation. Possibly his own interest in social types—his search for “Our Type” that had eluded his reach for nearly five years—led him to Jung's general descriptions in Psychological Types. There Jung makes his famous distinction between extraverted and introverted types and describes their various forms and characteristics. To claim that the character of Dick Diver was drawn out of Jung's typology obviously distorts Fitzgerald's mode of artistic creation. And yet it is difficult not to believe that he gained from Jung organizing and shaping insights into the psychology of his genteel romantic hero. “Hysteria is, in my view,” Jung wrote, “by far the most frequent neurosis with the extraverted type. The classical example of hysteria is always characterized by an exaggerated rapport with the members of his circle, and a frankly imitatory accommodation to surrounding conditions. A constant tendency to appeal for interest and to produce impressions upon his milieu is a basic trait of the hysterical nature. A correlate to this is his proverbial suggestibility, his pliability to another person's influence.” Fitzgerald was forced to take an interest in abnormal psychology in an effort to understand his wife's illness and his own relation to it; but he was able also to deepen his perceptions on psychological types and to see their connection with the social types whose nature he was striving to grasp in his new novel. Nothing better demonstrates Fitzgerald's developed perception than his readiness, in the “General Plan” he wrote for the novel in 1932, to take on for the first time as his subject the psychological disintegration of the genteel romantic hero.

“I believe that if one is interested in the world into which willy-nilly one's children will grow up,” Fitzgerald wrote to Margaret Turnbull in September 1932, as he was beginning Tender Is the Night, “the most accurate data can be found in the European leaders, such as Lawrence, Jung, and Spengler, and after that in the very sincere young Americans emerging one by one…” Fitzgerald had found in Lawrence, Jung, and Spengler the “data” for a deeper understanding of his own social and fictional world; and at last, with his new novel under way, he was once again placing himself among the very sincere young American writers whose insight into the future world he considered second almost to none.


The novel Fitzgerald outlined early in 1932 contained one intellectual element that is difficult to find in the completed version of Tender Is the Night. The hero was to have been a “communist-liberal-idealist, a moralist in revolt.” After himself succumbing to the old order, he was as a final gesture to have sent his son to the Soviet Union for his education. Like so many other American writers of his generation, Fitzgerald, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, discovered Karl Marx. “Scott reads Marx,” Zelda Fitzgerald wrote to John Peale Bishop while Fitzgerald was writing Tender Is the Night,”—I read the cosmological philosophers. The brightest moments of our day are when we get them mixed up.” Fitzgerald read at least The Communist Manifesto, in which he marked passages relating to the bourgeois class. The language of the “General Plan” quite clearly indicates that a Marxist approach to social class gave Fitzgerald his final perspectives on the economic and class origins of genteel romantic heroism—his final perspectives, but hardly his full perspective.

Fitzgerald's first working title for the new novel was The Drunkard's Holiday, a title that bears little relation to the finished work, unless it means to suggest both the psychological flaws of the hero and the social milieu in which they were revealed—his “giving in for various causes to the ideas of the haute Bourgeoisie,” before his final downfall. When his manuscript was typed up he changed the title to Doctor Diver's Holiday: A Romance, which seems to indicate not so much a statement of form—the form of the nineteenth-century romance, as opposed to the novel—as an assertion of mood, a claim for the beauty he had created as well as the social realism of his hero's decline. Perhaps it was this perception of beauty within or beyond his realism that led Fitzgerald back at the last moment to John Keats, the poet whom Yeats in A Vision used as his example of the obsessed man, the man in whose poetry there is “an exaggerated sensuousness that compels us to remember the pepper on the tongue as though that were his symbol.” From the “Ode to a Nightingale,” where faery lands are as forlorn and sad and fraught with danger as are real lands, he took his epigraph and his title:

Already with thee! tender is the night,

But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

Tender Is the Night is the story of a faery land like Keats's faery land, a land Fitzgerald learned at last to render with exaggerated sensuousness and with pepper on the tongue, a land created by romantic imagination, but the scene, as Lionel Trilling writes of Keats, “of an erotic fulfillment which implies castration.”


The faery land of Tender Is the Night is veiled at first in mystery; only slowly it emerges as a land created by one man. Rosemary Hoyt and her mother enter it as if they entered on a silent theater stage, and the reader senses the theatrical quality of the setting before he learns that Rosemary herself is a motion-picture actress. In the first two paragraphs the scene is set—a quiet, cool, pastoral scene, against which its one significant feature is twice sharply set off: the “short dazzling beach,” the “bright tan prayer rug of a beach.” Gausse's Hotel, set among the tall palms and dark pines and “the cupolas of a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies,” forms the backdrop, the painted scene behind the stage. “Of all the region only the beach stirred with activity”(4); the beach alone was the stage. Settled in at the hotel Rosemary passes through the beach to swim in the sea and then re-enters it from the open side, from the audience side, where she can see the stage as a spectator might see it a moment before she becomes a participant.

The stage was divided between the dark people and the light, and as a light-skinned uninitiate herself Rosemary first encounters the lights—Campion and Dumphry, Mrs. Abrams, the McKiskos— who are, like her, outside the mystery, left wondering and guessing. But Rosemary yearns toward the dark group, mostly Americans but “unlike the Americans she had known of late,” presided over by a “fine man in a jockey cap.” Watching them she begins to sense the theatrical nature of the setting. “After a while she realized that the man in the jockey cap was giving a quiet little performance for this group; he moved gravely about with a rake, ostensibly removing gravel and meanwhile developing some esoteric burlesque held in suspension by his grave face. Its faintest ramification had become hilarious, until whatever he said released a burst of laughter” (6). The man in the jockey cap was playing the role then of a comedian—or of a clown.

Gradually under the sun all that lay offstage became unreal to her. “It seemed that there was no life anywhere in all this expanse of coast except under the filtered sunlight of those umbrellas, where something went on amid the color and the murmur” (11). Rosemary falls asleep in the sun, and wakes to find her legs burned crimson, already on her way to becoming one of the dark. She is alone on the beach with the man in the jockey cap. He is cleaning off the beach. She asks him the time, and he tells her. “They faced the seascape together momentarily. 'It's not a bad time,' said Dick Diver. 'It's not one of the worst times of the day.' He looked at her and for a moment she lived in the bright blue world of his eyes, eagerly and confidently. Then he shouldered his last piece of junk and went up to his car, and Rosemary came out of the water, shook out her peignoir and walked up to the hotel” (12). By the end of the first scene on the beach Rosemary was acting out her own part. Ceasing to be a spectator, she had also ceased to see.

Rosemary Hoyt's angle of vision dominates the first book of Tender Is the Night, but hers is not the only point of view, and the reader is forewarned to take it with its proper grain of salt. She is introduced as a girl “who had magic in her pink palms and her cheeks lit to a lovely flame, like the thrilling flush of children after their cold baths in the evening. Her fine forehead sloped gently up to where her hair, bordering it like an armorial shield, burst into lovelocks and waves and curlicues of ash blonde and gold. Her eyes were bright, big, clear, wet, and shining, the color of her cheeks was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood-she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her”(3-4): a description with precisely that kind of exaggerated sensuousness that compels us to remember the pepper on the tongue, to notice how childish in fact she is. And if the reader is taken in by her beauty, Fitzgerald presses his point with perhaps an excess of admonitory caution: “her immature mind” (19), “her naïveté”(21), “as dewy with belief as a child from one of Mrs. Burnett's vicious tracts”(34), “Rosemary had never done much thinking” (40). “Rosemary was a romantic”(31), and Tender Is the Night is a romance about the excesses and the failures of romanticism.

Rosemary had never done much thinking—“save about the illimitability of her mother's perfections”(40). The star of the movie “Daddy's Girl” is a girl without a daddy, and partly as compensation she lavishes on her mother love enough for two. But her mother is too strong to have her head turned. Mrs. Elsie Speers—a symbolic name in a novel of symbolic names—is a wholly admirable character, but the sharpness of her name, befitting the twice-widowed wife of a cavalry officer and an Army doctor, signifies her power to draw blood. As the novel opens she is ready at last to sever Rosemary's umbilical cord (40). “By not sparing Rosemary she had made her hard—by not sparing her own labor and devotion she had cultivated an idealism in Rosemary, which at present was directed toward herself and saw the world through her eyes. So that while Rosemary was a 'simple' child she was protected by a double sheath of her mother's armor and her own—she had a mature distrust of the trivial, the facile, and the vulgar. However, with Rosemary's sudden success in pictures Mrs. Speers felt that it was time she were spiritually weaned; it would please rather than pain her if this somewhat bouncing, breathless and exigent idealism would focus on something except herself” (13). Thus it pleased her when Rosemary announced that she had fallen in love with Dick Diver that moment on the beach; but it is clear that her love for Dick is a kind of transference of parental love, that “Daddy's Girl” at last had found her daddy. Much of Rosemary's love for Dick thus takes on the quality of the relationship in the movie, “a father complex so apparent that Dick winced for all psychologists at the vicious sentimentality” (69). Dick himself recognized “the nursery footing upon which Rosemary persistently established” their affair (84-5)—recognized it the moment he wanted to sweep the nursery footing away and push their affair forward into maturity.

For Rosemary, falling in love with Dick was falling in love also with an atmosphere, a setting, and a time. She had come to the Riviera after all out of season, in the summer, and she “became a little self-conscious, as though she were displaying an unhealthy taste for the moribund; as though people were wondering why she was here in the lull between the gaiety of last winter and next winter, while up north the true world thundered by” (14). Sitting in the green twilight of a café in Cannes, she found “the dim conversations of the nineties realer and nearer than the headlines of the French paper” (15). This sense of slipping away from present time back into past time prepares her—as her immaturity and her naïveté and her romanticism also prepare her—to enter Dick Diver's theater stage, his artificial world. Fitzgerald wants us to know that Rosemary's unqualified admiration for Dick is a product of her own inexperience and susceptibility. “He seemed kind and charming—his voice promised that he would take care of her, and that a little later he would open up whole new worlds for her, unroll an endless succession of magnificent possibilities” (16)—only a young girl's imagination could create a romantic vision so incommensurate with the act that called it forth. And yet Fitzgerald also is at pains to let us know that Rosemary's vision has glimpsed, at least in part, the truth.

“Do you like it here—this place?” Rosemary asks. ” 'They have to like it,' said Abe North slowly. 'They invented it' ” (17). The Divers' world is their own created world—“our beach,” as Nicole says, “that Dick made out of a pebble pile” (20)—a world out of season in the Nietzschean sense, a world built in criticism of and competition with the “true world” that was thundering by up north. “The Divers' day was spaced like the day of the older civilizations to yield the utmost from the materials at hand” (21), and the Divers' way of life re-created the dream of a civilization where each individual might fulfill his own selfhood, find his own identity, live at the furthest range of his promise. “To be included in Dick Diver's world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. 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. Then, without caution, lest the first bloom of the relation wither, he opened the gate to his amusing world. So long as they subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation, but at the first flicker of doubt as to its all-inclusive-ness he evaporated before their eyes, leaving little communicable memory of what he had said or done” (27-8). When Rosemary arrives at last at the Divers' villa—named for Diana, goddess of the moon and of hunting, protectress of women—“Rosemary was thinking that the Villa Diana was the centre of the world” (29), as Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby had felt New York to be the new, warm center of the world. But Rosemary did not know that “the lush midsummer moment outside of time” (163) was almost over, and that the center of the world was ripe—overripe—and ready to plunge into chaos.

There was much Rosemary did not know, and her ignorance presented Fitzgerald with a problem of form in Tender Is the Night he was never wholly able to overcome. The first scene of the novel, chapters one and two of Book One, establishes the narrative point of view: by leaving the audience and entering the stage Rosemary gives up the role of the soliloquist and begins to speak in the voice of the dramatic monologuist; by faling in love with Dick she abandons the general social perspective and assumes a highly personal point of view. Fitzgerald wanted to present Rosemary's point of view for its own significant value, while enabling the reader to judge her limitations and distortions, to understand something other than what Rosemary understood. Therein lay his problem, for he was unable within the dramatic structure of the narrative to provide the materials for an alternative perspective; the character Abe North partly fulfills the need for a different point of view, but Fitzgerald could not develop his angle of vision as fully as was required.

Fitzgerald therefore found it necessary not only repeatedly to warn the reader against Rosemary's perspective—stressing her naïveté, her romanticism, her lack of thought—but also to enter the narrative as a soliloquist, speaking in the authorial voice for a general social perspective he was unable to introduce in any other way. Rosemary's “naïveté responded whole-heartedly to the expensive simplicity of the Divers, unaware of its complexity and lack of innocence, unaware that it was all a selection of quality rather than quantity from the run of the world's bazaar; and that the simplicity of behavior also, the nursery-like peace and good will, the emphasis on the simpler virtues, was part of a desperate bargain with the gods and had been attained through struggles she could not have guessed at. At that moment the Divers represented externally the exact furthermost evolution of a class, so that most people seemed awkward beside them—in reality a qualitative change had already set in that was not at all apparent to Rosemary” (21-2). One need not be opposed to the authorial voice in fiction to recognize how intrusions of this sort created difficulties for Fitzgerald. Through Rosemary's eyes the reader is led to see the romantic beauty and even the social radicalism of Dick Diver's Utopian world, a world we are to recognize as a true and possible world, and not wholly spurious. And yet Fitzgerald must undercut Rosemary's vision in order to make us see the economic and moral weaknesses which doom Dick Diver's world to failure. His inability to present both points of view within the dramatic form of the narrative creates a certain ambiguity in Book One of Tender Is the Night, an ambiguity that is not fully resolved. The problem persisted in Fitzgerald's mind long after publication of the novel, until finally he planned a new edition with the structure drastically revised.

For there is at stake in this problem of narrative form nothing less than the nature and destiny of Doctor Richard Diver. He appears in the opening pages of Tender Is the Night in roles successively exalted. As the man in the jockey cap, he entertains, he performs on a stage. But he has also created that stage world, created it physically in the past with his own hands, and still creates its living structure in the present. To Rosemary Hoyt, naïve and romantic, Dick Diver's world takes on the aura of a mystic, magical place—from a pebble pile he had made a “bright tan prayer rug of a beach” (3), and, when she ascends to the Villa Diana above, Rosemary feels she has reached the center of the world. Dick is capable not only of making ' one magic world, but she feels he can take care of her and take care of all the others, too (27). Dick Diver is a hero of extraordinary powers; through his manners he creates a world of romantic dreams, just as Gatsby had done through his parties. Yet this magical, romantic role, real and important as it is, is no more the sum of Richard Diver than it was of Jay Gatsby. Alongside Gatsby, Fitzgerald created in Nick Carraway a seer who could find the beauty behind the crassness; with Diver, Fitzgerald let the beauty overflow, and then he had to find a way to make the pain be known. Unlike Gatsby, Dick Diver is conscious of his contraries, aware of the dissimulation behind his magical, creative role. But neither Dick's consciousness nor his dialogue quite sufficed Fitzgerald in his effort, early in the novel, to counterpoint Rosemary's romantic view. Once more to make his point he was forced to intrude his authorial voice into what he had unsuccessfully tried to maintain as a dramatic narrative. Dick's “excitement about things reached an intensity out of proportion to their importance, generating a really extraordinary virtuosity with people. Save among a few of the tough-minded and perennially suspicious, he had the power of arousing a fascinated and uncritical love. The reaction came when he realized the waste and the extravagance involved. He sometimes looked back with awe at the carnivals of affection he had given, as a general might gaze upon a massacre he had ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust” (27). The faery land of Tender Is the Night, Fitzgerald makes clear, is a faery land where love is fulfilled, not only through Rosemary's romantic vision of “infinite and unknown possibilities,” but equally in images of blood and battle.

The military analogy becomes explicit later when Dick Diver's career is linked with that of U. S. Grant, but all through Book One, Rosemary's book, the military imagery is taking form. The party Dick gave at the Villa Diana, the party through which Rosemary found a romantic fulfillment, Dick planned as “a really had party.” “I want to give a party,” he told Nicole, “where there's a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see” (27). And in the middle of the party he contrasts his attitude directly with Rosemary's by telling her that he wants the summer “to die violently instead of fading out sentimentally” (37-8). Later, after their trip to Paris, Dick guides his group on a tour of a First World War battlefield, “simplifying it always until it bore a faint resemblance to one of his own parties” (59). Here one of the most significant dialogues of the novel takes place, linking the military imagery to the theme of romantic love and also to the sense of time.

“'This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes,' ” Dick says. ” 'The Russians and Italians weren't any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you can remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancée, and little cafés in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and weddings at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather's whiskers.' “

”'General Grant invented this kind of battle at Petersburg in sixty-five,' ” Abe North suggests.

”'No, he didn't,' ” Dick answers, revealing his own view of the general to whom he is linked, “'—he just invented mass butchery. This kind of battle was invented by Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne and whoever wrote Undine, and country deacons bowling and marraines in Marseilles and girls seduced in the back lanes of Wurttemberg and Westphalia. Why, this was a love battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here. This was the last love battle.'“

“'You want to hand over this battle to D. H. Lawrence,' said Abe”—Lawrence who had written in Fantasia of the Unconscious, “And instead of this gnawing, gnawing disease of mental consciousness and awful, unhealthy craving for stimulus and for action, we must substitute genuine action. The war was really not a bad beginning.”

“'All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love,' Dick mourned persistently … 'The silver cord is cut and the golden bowl is broken and all that, but an old romantic like me can't do anything about it.'“

“'I'm romantic too' ” (57-8). Rosemary has the last word, a fine touch of exaggerated sensuousness, a subtle irony that here as elsewhere in the novel lightly deflates Dick's values even as it insists upon them.

So, too, in Abe North's caustic observations there is a grain of truth that Dick may not necessarily see. On the occasion of another party, Rosemary observes Dick, and his “enthusiasm, the selflessness behind the whole performance ravished her, the technic of moving many varied types, each as immobile, as dependent on supplies of affection as an infantry battalion is dependent on rations, appeared so effortless that he still had pieces of his own most personal self for everyone” (77). Fitzgerald did not place together “ravished” and “infantry” by chance. Grant may have invented no more than mass butchery, but at least he fought to preserve the Union. But his successor, General Diver, stages his love battles, his carnivals of affection, for no other reason seemingly than “to satisfy an impersonal blood lust” (27). His own role as a military commander comes clear to him in the moment in a Paris restaurant when Nicole and Rosemary and Dick learn that the party beside them is composed of Gold Star mothers and widows of dead soldiers. “Over his wine Dick looked at them again; in their happy faces, the dignity that surrounded and pervaded the party, he perceived all the maturity of an older America. For a while the sobered women who had came to mourn for their dead, for something they could not repair, made the room beautiful. Momentarily, he sat again on his father's knee, riding with [Mosby] while the old loyalties and devotions fought on around him. Almost with an effort he turned back to his two women at the table and faced the whole new world in which he believed” (100-101). Dick was reaching back to a lost past within a past, to the romantic gallantry of Confederate cavalry raiders; a lost past that his own military leadership—a leadership that gave Rosemary “a conviction of homecoming, of a return from the derisive and salacious improvisations of the frontier” (34)—could only, like Grant's, destroy. What is significant about Dick's recollection is that it reaches back to a past not his own; it was something he, too, could not repair.

For Dick Diver's past is neither the ante-bellum South nor the frontier West but rather the genteel middle-class America of the late nineteenth century, the “whole-souled sentimental” America similar to the German and English and French societies that went to war in 1914 and blew themselves up “with a great gust of high explosive love ' (57). Dick's past is the world of “religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes,” the world the war destroyed, as Amory Blaine learned in This Side of Paradise, as Dick Diver mourns. Dick's past is the world of genteel romantic love, a world of romantic imagination, where neither love nor imagination steps outside the bounds of social convention. Dick Diver is yet one more version of the conventional genteel romantic hero; but like all of Fitzgerald's genteel heroes he is also something more—like Gatsby a creative figure, in Dick's case a re-creative figure, who restores the lost utopia of the past. “Their own party was overwhelmingly American and sometimes scarcely American at all. It was themselves he gave back to them, blurred by the compromises of how many years” (52). He brought the past to life again, the utopian American past, the imaginary American past; as Gatsby believes you really might repeat the past, so Dick believed you really might return to it. But on returning, the past can only be what it was before, the conventional, late-nineteenth-century, genteel America. As a genteel hero, Dick can imagine romantic dreams of love and magic possibilities; as a creator, he can build those dreams into a living world; yet he suffers still as does any genteel hero who sees through or beyond the conventions, and his carnivals of affection that make a new romantic world for others serve for him only as massacres he had seemingly ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust.

But his blood lust in fact is not at all impersonal. As the soldiers of World War One had fought and died for love, so too Dick stages his massacres for love, for personal love. Rosemary's love for him brings out his motive through Book One. “'You're the only girl I've seen for a long time,' ” Dick says to her back on the beach, ” 'that actually did look like something blooming'” (22). She blooms for him, as her name signifies, as a symbol of remembrance, literally as the dew from the sea. She brings to him youthfulness and memories of his own youth—his own equivocal, genteel youth. It is her presence that compels him to give a “really bad party” (27), to invite the light-skinned crowd, the climbers and the outcasts, as a way of showing off the virtuosity of his playful imagination. Rosemary has just come to feel that the Villa Diana was the center of the world when to her chagrin the outcasts enter through the gate. “Rosemary had a sharp feeling of disappointment—she looked quickly at Dick, as though to ask an explanation of this incongruous mingling. But there was nothing unusual in his expression. He greeted his new guests with a proud bearing and an obvious deference to their infinite and unknown possibilities. She believed in him so much that presently she accepted the Tightness of the McKiskos' presence as if she had expected to meet them all along” (29). It is Rosemary's naïveté and romanticism that eventually overcome the incongruity of the scene, but despite the light touch of irony in these sentences Dick's utopian powers are at work, however incommensurate with their objects. Dick is showing off his cleverness and Rosemary is won over. The violence that follows is violence that Dick had desired—as a consequence of his impersonal blood lust, and as a foretaste of the personal blood lust that drives him. The military analogy holds: genteel romantic love finds its fulfillment, here as in the First World War, in violence and destruction. Dick's dilemma after his “really bad party” lies in his effort to turn genteel romantic love into something else.

The party in the Villa Diana is the first skirmish in the love affair between Dick and Rosemary. It develops through their trip to Paris, the visit to the battlefield, their kiss in the taxicab, to the moment when Dick realizes that “the nursery footing upon which Rosemary persistently established it” annoyed him, and that she “had her hand on the lever more authoritatively than he” (84-5). From that moment on Dick can no longer be the genteel romantic hero; he was “too shaken by the impetus of his newly recognized emotion to resolve things into the pattern of the holiday, so the women, missing something, lapsed into a vague unhappiness” (85). For Dick now explicitly recognizes what the genteel romantic conventions were invented to hide, his sexual desire for Rosemary.

And so the past to which Rosemary returns Dick is the past of the adolescent boy in Victorian America, the genteel hero driven to sexual dreams and fantasies by the constraints and evasions of his society. The Yale boy casually tells Dick of Rosemary's adventures in a Pullman compartment—a scene Fitzgerald borrowed, significantly, from the last of the Basil Duke Lee stories—and “with every detail imagined, with even envy for the pair's community of misfortune in the vestibule, Dick felt a change taking place within him. Only the image of the third person, even a vanished one, entering into his relation with Rosemary was needed to throw him off his balance and send through him waves of pain, misery, desire, desperation” (88). Dick rushes out to Rosemary's studio on the outskirts of Paris. “Dignified in his fine clothes, with their fine accessories, he was yet swayed and driven as an animal. Dignity could come only with an overthrowing of his past, of the effort of the last six years. He went briskly around the block with the fatuousness of one of Tarkington's adolescents… Dick's necessity of behaving as he did was a projection of some submerged reality: he was compelled to walk there, or stand there, his shirtsleeve fitting his wrist and his coat sleeve encasing his shirtsleeve like a sleeve valve, his collar molded plastically to his neck, his red hair cut exactly, his hand holding his small briefcase like a dandy—just as another man once found it necessary to stand in front of a church in Ferrara, in sackcloth and ashes. Dick was paying some tribute to things unforgotten, unshriven, unexpurgated” (91).

As a symbol of remembrance Rosemary recalls Dick to his youth, makes him see how false his present life is. Ironically she sees his present life as a re-creation of the past, of the true, romantic past; but through Dick's eyes we know his created world is a stage world where the actors play their parts only so long as he directs and plays the lead. But if he will not keep up the play, where can he turn for release? One alternative to his stage direction—to the beach umbrella which Rosemary felt shading her even in Paris—is the true present. The true present has its own stage life, the life of the movie studio that Fitzgerald draws in a brilliant paragraph as a scene from a purgatorial underworld; and when its theatrical props are removed, the present is still a purgatory, inhabited paradoxically by the light-skinned people, the McKiskos, Mrs. Abrams, Campion and Dumphry, suffering through their ambitions and desires. Dick's “really bad party” already intrudes the present into the created past—both Brady, the movie director, and the light-skinned group are there—and the mixture is one that produces violence Dick can neither direct nor control, in the duel and again in the shooting scene at the railroad station. The house hewn from the frame of Cardinal de Retz's palace, meanwhile, contains “nothing of the past, nor of any present that Rosemary knew,” but “seemed rather to enclose the future so that it was an electric-like shock” (71). The future is a stage-set, too, but a monstrous one, a “Frankenstein” world made up of the dissipated and the exploiters, and after their brief encounter with the “terrible” future Rosemary and Dick are thrown into each other's arms, escaping back to their separate romantic pasts. But for Dick the past is after all no more than a cul de sac, a return to the “unforgotten, unshriven, unexpurgated” genteel romantic fantasies, to the fatuousness of a Tarkington adolescent and the jealous pain of youthful desire without the exquisite manners and the charm that make him creative, and make him loved. Dick's dilemma is complete, and he knows it: he cannot be satisfied unless he sexually fulfills the love his genteel romantic heroism earns him; he cannot seek sexual gratification without throwing off his genteel romantic mask; yet without the mask he would no longer be so loved. The genteel romantic personality with which he is blessed and cursed provides no satisfaction, except for others. For Dick Diver there is no dimension of time in which he can find release; more significantly than ever his infatuation with Rosemary takes place in a “lush midsummer moment outside of time.”

Dick's dilemma is presented in a sense even more succinctly in the case of Abe North, whose role as Dick's counterpart is one of the most intriguing and perplexing aspects of Book One of the novel. Once the parallel between Dick and U. S. Grant is made explicit, one cannot but suspect that the name Abe North is also meant to have symbolic significance, particularly when Abe is first described, “His voice was slow and shy; he had one of the saddest faces Rosemary had ever seen, the high cheek-bones of an Indian, a long upper lip, and enormous deep-set dark golden eyes” (9). It is difficult to escape the implication that Abe North is Abe Lincoln, as Dick Diver is U. S. Grant; that Abe, with “the solemn dignity that flowed from him,” with “his achievement, fragmentary, suggestive, and surpassed,” his “will to live, now become a will to die” (83), dies symbolically as Lincoln did, his work unfinished, before the spirit of the Gilded Age took command, while Grant lived on ineffectually to preside over the rapacious capitalism that demeaned the idealism of the war. The Lincoln-Grant relationship between Abe and Dick is strengthened by the sense Book One conveys that Abe is even more of a creative figure than Dick, or at least a different kind of creative figure, and of a higher order—an original mind, where Dick at his best is a synthesizer and classifier.

Early in the novel Abe is described as a composer “who after a brilliant and precocious start had composed nothing for seven years” (34). His dilemma in time is as great as Dick's, if not greater. Abe is returning to America to resume his composing, but neither his wife nor his friends harbor any hope that Abe will actually fulfill his plan. ” 'I can't see why you've given up about everything,' ” Nicole Diver challenges him, and Abe replies, ” 'I suppose I got bored; and then it was such a long way to go back in order to get anywhere' ” (81). The only way Abe can rediscover his past is through his drinking. “The drink made past happy things contemporary with the present, as if they were still going on, contemporary even with the future as if they were about to happen again” (103). Preferring to go back to his past by drinking, rather than by returning to America, Abe leaves the boat-train and doubles back to Paris. Abe's mode of recovering the past, however, is a sign not of personal rebirth but of personal disintegration—a personal disintegration which can only destroy the meaning of the past as it recaptures it. Drunk in a bar, Abe accuses a Negro of stealing money from him; but the circumstances are clouded by “the alcoholic fog”; an innocent man is accused, and yet another innocent man is arrested. A Negro named Peterson supports Abe. He follows Abe to the Divers' hotel, and there he is shot and left to die on Rosemary Hoyt's bed. Abe North's personal disintegration spreads out into a social catastrophe for the expatriate Negroes in Paris: the arrested man's name is Freeman. To this the Great Emancipator has fallen.

And by so falling Abe North leaves his legacy of disintegration to Dick. His last words in the novel mean nothing except as a suggestion of Dick's future drinking and bad manners, a prefiguring of Dick's decline. “'But remember what George the Third said,' ” he says reproachfully to Dick, “'that if Grant was drunk he wished he would bite the other generals' ” (108). Abe leaves, and already his legacy is at work. Rosemary discovers the bleeding body of Jules Peterson on her bed. Dick, to protect Rosemary, carries the body into the hall and passes the bloody blanket and sheets across to Nicole in their own room. And Nicole, recognizing the sexual implications of the blood-stained sheets from Rosemary's bed, relapses into madness in the bathroom.


The moment before Abe North intruded his premonitions of destiny into Dick Diver's and Rosemary Hoyt's developing affair, Rosemary had “stood up and leaned down and said her most sincere thing” to Dick: “'Oh, we're such actors—you and I'” (105). With her words the movement of Book One of Tender Is the Night reaches its climax. For she had entered into the action of the novel by appearing on Dick Diver's stage; gradually by capturing Dick's love she had taken the direction of the scene away from him, as he well knew; and her linking them together both as actors is a sign that she, too, has come to recognize her domination. A similar movement shapes Book Two of the novel, a movement from Dick's power and control at the beginning of Book Two to his weakness and dependence at the end. In the second book Dick's loss of control takes place in relation not to Rosemary but to the Warren family, and the themes of the book are not love and sex and manners, but rather love and sex and money.

As Book One opens out into Dick Diver's created world, so Book Two begins by placing Dick Diver in a world he had not made: Book One takes place in the faery land of creative imagination, Book Two in the vast and solid world of history. Fitzgerald's sense of history, so long cultivated but so much more difficult to render in his art, attained its artistic fulfillment in a remarkable passage at the opening of Book Two. Beginning with the metaphor of Switzerland as an island in the First World War, “washed on one side by the waves of thunder around Gorizia and on the other by the cataracts along the Somme and the Aisne,” it moves on to juxtapose the “intriguing strangers” in the cafés of Berne and Geneva with the “blinded or one-legged men, or dying trunks,'' crossing in trains between the bright lakes, the bright posters of 1914 with inspiringly ferocious men and the withered posters of 1917 after three years of massacre—“and no country was more surprised than its sister republic when the United States bungled its way into the war.” Few passages in Fitzgerald's fiction present so complex a setting and emotion with such simplicity and economy and beauty. And Dick Diver, even in wartime, “was already too valuable, too much of a capital investment to be shot off in a gun” (115). His country could not yet afford to lose him, not for love nor money.

Book Two opens in the year 1917, with Doctor Richard Diver twenty-six years old, a former Rhodes Scholar from Yale, a student of psychiatry in Vienna. This is the “heroic period” in Dick Diver's life, but it it is one of the weak points of Tender Is the Night that this brief chapter describing Dick as he was before his intricate destiny began—“like Grant, lolling in his general store in Galena” (118)—is so sketchy and vague. Lucky Dick he was called at New Haven, and he reasons to himself, “Lucky Dick can't be one of these clever men; he must be less intact, even faintly destroyed. If life won't do it for him it's not a substitute to get a disease or a broken heart, or an inferiority complex, though it'd be nice to build out some broken side till it was better than the original structure” (116). This is the conventional view of the sources of creativity, the view that Fitzgerald had presented as far back as his college days in “The Pierian Springs and the Last Straw,” the view that Edmund Wilson described in the title essay of his collection, The Wound and the Bow. Dick has no wound and thus it seems he has no bow: “He knew … that the price of his intactness was incompleteness. 'The best I can wish you, my child,' so said the Fairy Blackstick in Thackeray's The Rose and the Ring, 'is a little misfortune.' ” Dick argues the point with a Rumanian intellectual who reassures him that he is not a romantic philosopher, only a scientist. And yet Dick's intactness is itself a wound, for it is the intactness of a self-deceived American.

“Dick got up to Zurich on less Achilles' heels than would be required to equip a centipede, but with plenty—the illusions of eternal strength and health, and of the essential goodness of people; illusions of a nation, the lies of generations of frontier mothers who had to croon falsely, that there were no wolves outside the cabin door” (117). The price of this form of intactness is incompleteness, but Fitzgerald does not make clear that Dick may complete himself in two possible ways, as a creative scientist, or as a genteel romantic hero. So long as Dick is intact he is incomplete, and the natural way for an American of Dick's generation to complete himself is through genteel romantic heroism. “His voice … wooed the world” (19), Rosemary had thought, but the world far more wooed him, and true to D. H. Lawrence's claim in the Fantasia of the Unconscious, he was the submissive one while the world—the woman's world—was the initiator. When the world made love to him, Dick Diver could not say no, and instead of gaining a bow because of his wound, his American wound had made him, as he whispered to himself, “Lucky Dick, you big stiff” (116). But the genteel romantic hero's love-making with the world provided no completion either.

The world first made love to Dick Diver in the person of Nicole Warren, an American mental patient at a clinic in Switzerland. During the war they had accidentally met and her attitude toward him had become, as Dr. Gregorovius said, “a transference of the most fortuitous kind” (120). His therapeutic influence was worked through the form of letters. “If you come here again with that attitude base and criminal and not even faintly what I had been taught to associate with the rôle of gentleman then heaven help you,” Nicole wrote him early in the correspondence. “However, you seem quieter than the others, all soft like a big cat. I have only gotten to like boys who are rather sissies. Are you a sissy? There were some somewhere.” And again, “Last year or whenever it was in Chicago when I got so I couldn't speak to servants or walk in the street I kept waiting for someone to tell me. It was the duty of someone who understood. The blind must be led. Only no one would tell me everything—they would just tell me half and I was already too muddled to put two and two together.” And again, “Here I am in what appears to be a semi-insane asylum, all because nobody saw fit to tell me the truth about anything. If I had only known what was going on like I know now I could have stood it I guess for I am pretty strong, but those who should have, did not see fit to enlighten me. And now, when I know and have paid such a price for knowing, they sit there with their dogs lives and say I should believe what I did believe. Especially one but I know now” (121-3). Nicole Warren sounds like a sheltered girl who is shattered by discovering the reality of sex beneath the appearance of romantic love. But her case is rather more complicated than that: the problem involves not only sex and love, but also the Warren family money.

The particular nature of genteel romantic conventions as they developed in post-Civil War America took form not only from religious or literary or cultural values, but even more significantly from a social and economic setting. The genteel romantic conventions were a way of assuring social control in a society that was highly mobile and yet was stratifying swiftly, especially at the top. They were a means for a predominantly middle-class society to control through cultural standards both the lower strata striving for improvement, and the higher strata whose economic success had created a new kind of unbounded power. Genteel romantic formulas worked as long and as well as they did partly because the highest economic groups had emerged so recently from the middle classes that they were not yet able to throw off middle-class habits of mind, even when they had ceased to observe the injunctions, and partly because genteel romantic formulas often enough provided real rewards. But genteel romanticism as a cultural norm was doomed when the upper strata became so much richer and more powerful than the middle class and when, after a time, they no longer cared to profess middle-class values, except when threatened. It was the First World War, as Dick Diver said, that expended a century of middle-class love, and laid bare for the twenties the hollow wreckage of genteel values. From the start of his career, Fitzgerald had sensed the change, and in his best fiction—in “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” The Great Gatsby, “The Rich Boy,” and Tender Is the Night—he explored the ambiguous relationship between wealth and genteel values. But as the war had demonstrated the weakness of genteel romanticism and proclaimed the triumph of the rich, so a decade later the Great Crash exposed the weaknesses of capitalism: Tender Is the Night is Fitzgerald's first major work of art written after the crash, and though the novel takes place when capitalism is at the height of its powers-summer 1925 to summer 1929—Fitzgerald is judging it from the perspective of its fall.

The extraordinary power of the Divers' wealth is apparent in Book One:

Nicole was the product of much ingenuity and toil. For her sake trains began their run at Chicago and traversed the round belly of the continent to California; chicle factories fumed and link belts grew link by link in factories; men mixed toothpaste in vats and drew mouth-wash out of copper hogsheads; girls canned tomatoes quickly in August or worked rudely at the Five-and-Tens on Christmas Eve; half-breed Indians toiled on Brazilian coffee plantations and dreamers were muscled out of patent rights in new tractors—these were some of the people who gave a tithe to Nicole, and as the whole system swayed and thundered onward it lent a feverish bloom to such processes of hers as wholesale buying, like the flush of a fireman's face holding his post before a spreading blaze. She illustrated very simple principles, containing in herself her own doom, but illustrated them so accurately that there was grace in the procedure. (55)

But not until Book Two is its source made clear. Nicole belongs to a great feudal family of Chicago, whose power is so vast that it can command a United States cruiser to carry her through the submarine blockade, a family for whom “money is no object” and, therefore, nothing else is either—rules or standards or values or whatever else the middle class builds up to protect itself. And yet it must profess the middle-class ethic because an ostensibly democratic society would not tolerate an articulated feudal system of values—part of Braddock Washington's dilemma in “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”—and because it lacks the imagination to fashion an ethic wholly new. “His fine shoulders shaking with awful sobs inside his easy-fitting coat” (129), Devereux Warren confesses how in all innocence and ignorance and self-deception the idealized love between father and daughter turned suddenly to incest. If behind the façade of filial sentiment lurks such a thing, no wonder Nicole came to believe that the façade of genteel romantic conventions conceals similar sexual desires.

The precise purpose of the genteel romantic hero in nineteenth-century America was to serve as a smokescreen to cover up the truth Nicole so tragically discovered, to divert energies and desires into harmless pursuits through the power of his romantic imagination. This was a secret of success for the poor but presentable young man of talent, the true nature of whom Fitzgerald laid bare by exaggeration, by endowing his genteel heroes with extraordinary powers. In 1917 Dick Diver had seemed to possess no special powers—except the ambition to be as powerful a psychologist as Jung or Freud—and he seemed also successfully to have escaped the wealthy society that might want to use his genteel romantic talents. “Men and women had made much of him, and perhaps what had brought him back to the centre of the great Swiss watch, was an intuition that this was not too good for a serious man … he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in” (133). Franz Gregorovius says, “You are attractive to women, Dick,” and Dick replies, “Then God help me!” (131). In a half-dozen remarkable short chapters—remarkable for passages of poetic prose of great beauty and romantic suggestiveness, counterpointed by the scientific candor of the clinical point of view and the crass hardness of Baby Warren—Dick Diver against his will falls in love and marries Nicole Warren. “On the centre of the lake, cooled by the piercing currents of the Rhone, lay the true centre of the Western World” (147), and in the center of the Western world Doctor Diver, the ambitious young psychologist, finds his true destiny as the genteel romantic hero.

With chapter eleven of Book Two the novel resumes the present action of Book One. “The lush midsummer moment outside of time was already over,” and Dick Diver's faery land of Book One lies revealed as nothing more than a combination of therapy and high society—paraphrasing one of Dick's remarks, a “meeting of Sigmund Freud with Ward McAllister” (169). With chapter eleven, Dick is seen wholly through his own eyes; and his exquisite manners, that to Rosemary created a world and restored people to themselves, seem to Dick no more than “a trick of the heart.” Dick knows perfectly well the genteel origins of his manners, their source in an exaggeration of a certain style, born of defeat. “From his father Dick had learned the somewhat conscious good manners of the young Southerner coming north after the Civil War. Often he used them and just as often he despised them because they were not a protest against how unpleasant selfishness was but against how unpleasant it looked” (164). Now he was discovering how much his manners had been used to hide the selfishness of others, how much his own self had been trapped in the net of Nicole's wealth and Nicole's illness. Yet to break away from the manners he despises would be to break away as well from his most essential self: this is the tragic dilemma of the genteel hero.

For Dick “time stood still and then every few years accelerated in a rush, like the quick re-wind of a film” (180). Time had stood still for him in the summer on the beach, but now it was moving fast, away from his intellectual ambitions, from his career, and from his youth, and the road back was blocked by the nature of his past. The only way out lay in “an overthrowing of his past” (91), a dropping of the pretense of good manners and the sentimental lies about romantic love. But to overturn his past would court destruction of his self. “Somehow Dick and Nicole had become one and equal, not apposite and complementary; she was Dick too, the drought in the marrow of his bones. He could not watch her disintegrations without participating in them” (190-91) because the source of her disintegration lies in the same dissimulation which his social role was made to bolster. But where her disintegration arose from one ugly incident, his disintegration stems from the very core of his personal identity. The true neurotic in Tender Is the Night is not Nicole Diver, but her husband.

He had lost himself—he could not tell the hour when, or the day or the week, the month or the year. Once he had cut through things, solving the most complicated equations as the simplest problems of his simplest patients. Between the time he found Nicole flowering under a stone on the Zurichsee and the moment of his meeting with Rosemary the spear had been blunted. Watching his father's struggles in poor parishes had wedded a desire for money to an essentially unacquisitive nature. It was not a healthy necessity for security—he had never felt more sure of himself, more thoroughly his own man, than at the time of his marriage to Nicole. Yet he had been swallowed up like a gigolo, and somehow permitted his arsenal to be locked up in the Warren safety-deposit vaults. (201)

Dick Diver, the successful genteel romantic hero, had attained an erotic fulfillment which implied castration. The only way back now to his own selfhood and separate identity lay in a new demonstration of his sexual potency: “He was in love with every pretty woman he saw now, their forms at a distance, their shadows on a wall” (201). Yet his genteel romantic being still rested on Victorian prudery. Like his patients Dick Diver was a divided personality, stretched out on the rack of genteel culture, pulled apart by sexual dreams on one hand and social sublimation on the other—torn apart between potency and castration.

Fitzgerald brilliantly portrays the widening breach between Dick's separate selves in Book Two by his treatment of Dick's relations, not with Nicole, but with her sister, Baby Warren, and her rival, Rosemary Hoyt. They matched the two poles of his divided personality, Baby the extreme of social conventionality and sexlessness, Rosemary the other extreme of sentimental romanticism and erotic desire. To reinforce his themes of sexual potency and castration Fitzgerald turned to a common sexual metaphor. Baby Warren was “both formidable and vulnerable, he decided, remembering other women with flowerlike mouths grooved for bits” (150) ; Rosemary “was a young mustang” (164), and when Dick meets her in Rome her beauty was “all groomed, like a young horse dosed with Black-seed oil” (207). Rosemary first came upon Dick, of course, when he was wearing a jockey cap.

“Baby Warren wanted to talk to Dick, wanted to talk to him with the impetus that sent her out vaguely toward all new men, as though she were on an inelastic tether and considered that she might as well get to the end of it as soon as possible. She crossed and re-crossed her knees frequently in the manner of tall restless virgins” (151). Fitzgerald brutally puts her down with a single adjective: “onanistic” (152). Nicknamed “Baby,” she is also immature emotionally and socially, strung together by her naïve Anglophilism and her genteel American sentimentality; and Dick's mounting impatience with genteel evasions leads him three times to contradict her: when he mocks his own good manners (177-8), when he denies her praise for the English (214), and when, to her compliment, “'You can keep a party going by just a little sentence or a saying here or there. I think that's a wonderful talent,'” he replies, “It's a trick'” (216). Dick can afford gently to disagree with Baby Warren so long as he maintains his moral superiority over her. But one false step will expose him to the full weight of the power that the Warren money wields; and it is his effort to recover his sexual potency, already taken from him by the power of the Warren money, that drives him on to that false step.

In Rome, returning from his father's funeral, Dick encounters Rosemary. At last they make love together; but Dick, recognizing that he does not love her nor she him, directs his sexual passion for her into prurient curiosity about her sex life. He was potent after all, and yet in regaining his sexual prowess he is still unable to separate it from genteel premises : Knowing that she has been promiscuous, he wants out of pride and jealousy fully to know it all. “He felt increasingly Victorian” (217). His probing reduces her to despairing tears, and she cries out, “I feel as if I'd quarreled with Mother” (219). So Dick is still the missing father figure in her life, even after they have consummated their affair. That night Dick avoids returning to her, drinks too much and gets involved in a drunken brawl—once more ravishment and bloody battle go hand in hand. Dick is arrested and beaten at the jail. Baby Warren is called to rescue him, and with “the clean-sweeping irrational temper that had broken the moral back of a race and made a nursery out of a continent” (232), she succeeds. Warren money saves him, and “she had the satisfaction of feeling that, whatever Dick's previous record was, they now possessed a moral superiority over him for as long as he proved of any use” (235). But the moral superiority of Warren money is a subject of high irony. Leaving the jail Dick cries, “I want to make a speech. … I want to explain to these people how I raped a five-year-old girl. Maybe I did—” (235). It seems clear that in Dick's eyes his copulation with “Daddy's Girl” was the same as Devereux Warren's copulation with his daughter: an act of incest. Dick and the Warrens are therefore morally equal: their domination over him is not a result of their moral superiority, whatever Baby thinks, but of their economic power.


“Men and women had made much of him, and perhaps what had brought him back to the centre of the great Swiss watch”—in the spring of 1919—“was an intuition that this was not too good for a serious man” (133). Nearly a decade later, Dick Diver returns again to the center of the Western world, marking an end that bears no promise of a new beginning. “Dick,” Kaethe Gregorovius proclaims, “is no longer a serious man” (241). The scene in Lausanne serves as a symbol of his decay. Dick goes there to see about the case of a young homosexual, a person whose “very charm made it possible for [him] to perpetrate his outrages” (245)—an odd parallel to Dick's own character; later this professional encounter would provide a pretext for a slanderous accusation against Dick, an ironic parody of his true sexual role in the novel, and an indication that his role was finished. Moreover, in Lausanne Dick comes upon Nicole's father, who seems to be dying, but who suddenly gets up from his death bed, pays his bill with a thousand dollar note, and takes off for Paris. Dick Diver and Devereux Warren may now be morally equals, but money is a stronger source of energy than manners.

The energy of money had been spending and sapping the energy of manners through the Divers' marriage, and now the energy of manners is gone. Book Three of Tender Is the Night is Nicole's book, an account of Nicole's recovery of herself, of herself as Nicole Warren, a creation of money, rather than Nicole Diver, a creation of manners. Nicole's self-recovery takes place as Dick's character disintegrates, but in the context also of styles of life which enormous wealth has made “fabulous.” Mary North, widow of the composer whose name and manner symbolized so much, had married an Asian nobleman who “was not quite light enough to travel in a pullman south of Mason-Dixon”(258). The actual moment of separation for Dick and Nicole—who had been so long one personality that they signed their names “Dicole”—comes, in April 1929, on a yacht named the “Margin.” “If she need not, in her spirit, be forever one with Dick as he had appeared last night, she must be something in addition, not just an image on his mind, condemned to endless parades around the circumference of a medal” (277). Beneath Nicole Diver lay another person, Nicole Warren of Chicago, temporarily injured by an incestuous act, but slowly recovering inside her. “Nicole had been designed for change, for flight, with money as fins and wings. The new state of things would be no more than if a racing chassis, concealed for years under the body of a family limousine, should be stripped to its original self” (280).

It is with Tommy Barban that Nicole's true being is at last stripped bare. “When did you begin to have white crook's eyes?” he asks her, and she answers, “If my eyes have changed it's because I'm well again. And being well perhaps I've gone back to my true self—I suppose my grandfather was a crook and I'm a crook by heritage, so there we are” (292). Together they go to a hotel in Nice, where they make love. Afterward, Tommy “inspected the oblong white torso joined abruptly to the brown limbs and head, and said, laughing gravely: 'You are all new like a baby'” (295). White-eyed, white-skinned, Nicole is no longer one of the dark-skinned actors on Dick Diver's stage.

Dick's little drama is over: “His beach, perverted now to the tastes of the tasteless; he could search it for a day and find no stone of the Chinese Wall he had once erected around it, no footprint of an old friend” (280). One old friend has returned, though, Rosemary Hoyt, and in a discussion of her acting Dick reveals how he staged the scene he had dominated so long: “On the stage you're trying to entertain… You do the unexpected thing until you've maneuvered the audience back from the objective fact to yourself. Then you slide back into character again” (288). Succinctly put, this is the method of the genteel romantic hero, the clever entertainer who paints a pretty gloss over the objective facts of life. But the genteel romantic hero's days are over.

Almost over. Dick performs one last act in his genteel romantic show. Mary North and Lady Caroline Sibley-Biers, dressed as sailors, pick up two French girls, a scene ensues, and they are arrested. Dick is called to get them out. ” 'Dick, you can always arrange things,' ” Mary cries out, “'—you always could'” (304). In his last genteel romantic act, performed for French police, Dick makes an ironic fantasy out of the fabulous wealth that has used him up. ” 'The Italian Countess … is the grand-daughter … of John D. Rockefeller Mellon. … In addition she is the niece of Lord Henry Ford' ” (305). And this one last call for his imaginative talents gives rise to one last effort by Fitzgerald to explain the ultimate cause of Dick's collapse—an effort ascribed to Dick's self-knowledge, but so out of character for Dick Diver in Book Three that it reads far more as one of the obvious authorial intrusions:

He got up and, as he absorbed the situation, his self-knowledge assured him that he would undertake to deal with it—the old fatal pleasingness, the old forceful charm, swept back with its cry of “Use me!” He would have to go fix this thing that he didn't care a damn about, because it had early become a habit to be loved, perhaps from the moment when he had realized that he was the last hope of a decaying clan. On an almost parallel occasion, back in Dohmler's clinic on the Zurichsee, realizing this power, he had made his choice, chosen Ophelia, chosen the sweet poison and drunk it. Wanting above all to be brave and kind, he had wanted, even more than that, to be loved. So it had been. So it would ever be… (302)

Dick's flaw, then, is in himself: his destiny of his own making. Yet his flaw is the flaw of a society: his illusions the “illusions of a nation, the lies of generations of frontier mothers who had to croon falsely, that there were no wolves outside the cabin door” (117). The novel comes to an end, in chapter twelve of Book Three, with a remarkable recapitulation of its genteel romantic themes. Dick goes to take a last look at the beach. ” 'This is his place,' ” Nicole says to Baby. “'—in a way he discovered it. Old Gausse always says he owes everything to Dick'” (312). But the beach no longer belongs to him now: with a white sun beating down out of a white sky, even nature denies him. Moving up on the terrace, Dick stops with Mary North. ” 'I've spent most of my time defending you this summer,' ” Mary says, and Dick replies, ” 'That remark is one of Doctor Eliot's classics,' ” a reference which calls forth the genteel culture of the Gilded Age.

” 'You're all so dull,' he said.”

” 'But we're all there is!' cried Mary.”

“His eyes, for the moment clear as a child's, asked her sympathy and stealing over him he felt the old necessity of convincing her that he was the last man in the world and she was the last woman … their glances married suddenly, bedded, strained together.” For one last moment sexual desire and the genteel romantic dreams seem united: but “his blood raced slow.” Dick Diver, the creator of romantic dreams who briefly built a beach into a faery-land utopia, stands up to go. “He raised his right hand and with a papal cross he blessed the beach from the high terrace” (313-14).

Dick returns to the upper-New York State country from which he had long ago set out. Nicole liked to think “his career was biding its time, again like Grant's in Galena” (315). Once more Dick Diver's career is linked with Grant's. But time does not repeat itself. Dick had had his moment of obscurity, like Grant in Galena; had become like Grant a great military commander, giving parties like love battles out of blood lust; and ended like Grant the President, a soured, ineffectual front man for immense and selfish wealth. But there were no more love battles to be fought: in the summer of 1929, when Dick Diver took leave of the beach he had created, the Gilded Age had only a few more weeks to run. The genteel middle-class American culture, which Dick Diver expressed in so remarkable a way, had lost its values in the First World War, and it was soon to lose its economic foundations as well. Dick Diver fades away into the mystery of the American heartland, which had borne him up into his destiny. But its blood, too, raced slow.

Tender Is the Night ends thus without the promise of a new beginning, slips quietly back into the unrecoverable past. Into the novel which occupied nine years of his life, Fitzgerald poured a profusion of themes and images, poured all the passion of his social discontent and his historical understanding. Tender Is the Night is most of all a novel of emotion, of beautiful and sad and sometimes artistically uncontrolled emotion. Through the carelessness of his publisher it was—and still is—a novel of incongruous and distracting imperfections, misspellings, repetitions, wrong words; but through Fitzgerald's own lack of artistic detachment it is also a novel of imperfect form, a novel whose dramatic structure is continually broken by the author's effort to insert a wider social perspective that he felt he had not fully made clear. It was this flaw in the novel's form that led Fitzgerald to plan a structural revision. But when the revised version was posthumously prepared and published it lost the dramatic energy of the novel without gaining the formal clarity that only a textual revision could have attained.

Yet to recognize the lapses of form in Tender Is the Night should not detract from the novel's extraordinary achievements. In a way Fitzgerald fulfilled the ambitions with which he had begun his new novel back in 1925. The Great Gatsby had placed him among the leaders of the modern movement in the arts, and yet he had wanted to move beyond, to write a novel that would be “the model for the age that Joyce and Stein are searching for, that Conrad didn't find.” With Tender Is the Night he did move beyond the modern movement, moved away from universal myths and toward the pathos of history. This novel is a vision in art of an era in American history, of the failure of a society and of an individual who embodied its graces and its weaknesses. In Tender Is the Night Fitzgerald created a work of fiction rare in American literature, a novel uniting romantic beauty and also historical and social depth; and he proved by his creation that his art, and his identity as an artist, could survive the death of the society which had nurtured and sustained him.

Next: Chapter 11.

Published in F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon by Robert Sklar (New York: Oxford Up, 1967).