Tender is the Night and American history
by Milton R. Stern

In the very young Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), the driving engine was an impulse toward lyricism and extended evocative description—what the fledgling author thought of as “poetic” language, often included for its own sake. In his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), the driving force changed. The more seasoned young author began to concentrate on objective circumstance and the forward motion of narrative, but the book was less rich in the signature Fitzgerald element of extraordinary evocative power. In his third novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), Fitzgerald’s genius, luck, and artistic experience succeeded brilliantly in combining the impelling energies of the first two books. His structural method was the presentation of each concrete event within a progression of related events, a series of meals and parties, by means of hauntingly evocative patterns of language that intricately reflected events upon each other—themes that Fitzgerald called “elaborate and overlapping blankets of prose.”1 In the process of combining lyrical description with objective circumstance he mastered the connections between themes and narration. He discovered how to build a story out of tightly controlled and intricately woven patterns to express ideas. The expression itself grew from his remarkable power with evocative language.

But Fitzgerald would not again write a novel composed so fully of such lush and haunting “overlapping blankets of prose.” Except for a few instances (such as the description of the final break between Nicole and Dick or the famous depiction of Nicole’s shopping) in Tender is the Night (1934), there are no extended passages of what Fitzgerald had thought of as “poetic.” In the years between The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald clearly felt the influence of what American literary style had evolved into by the 1930s; that influence continued to train his trademark evocative genius toward narrative momentum without extended rhetorical flights. A rich history of literary, intellectual, social, and political influences provided an inevitable context for Fitzgerald’s style in his economic dependence on magazine short fiction during the Depression and in his attempts to write for the Hollywood studios. His fiction took on more tints of the realism that increasingly had characterized American fiction since the Civil War and also merged with the existentially energized anti-sentimentality of language and event that had characterized American fiction since World War I. Tender is the Night suggested the hardboiled humor, favored by Esquire magazine, with which Fitzgerald was to characterize his last published efforts, the Pat Hobby stories; it also suggested the style with which he was to compose the compelling, beautiful fragment of The Last Tycoon (1941). Seen within the totality of Fitzgerald’s work, in Fitzgerald’s mature stylistic journey Tender is the Night is as gigantic a landmark as The Great Gatsby.

It took a while before readers began to discover the book’s enormous wealth: it was not especially well received upon publication on April 12, 1934, but by the close of the twentieth century, it had become admiringly recognized, appreciated, and praised as one of America’s great books. Yet it also had suffered badly from ideologically distorting criticism and simplistic readings stemming from an overidentification of Fitzgerald’s work with his life and times during the Jazz Age. He named the age, which featured Roaring Twenties expatriates—not only artists and writers, but also the idle rich such as those who people his fourth novel. In the 1930s Tender is the Night was often dismissed because the surfaces of its materials were shallowly seen as the intellectual and moral substance of the book, just another story about playboys and playgirls with not enough serious work to make them significant in what had become an economically grim “real world.”2

In the creation of Dick and Nicole Diver, Fitzgerald used aspects of his own life: his friends, especially Gerald and Sara Murphy; Zelda’s affair with a French naval officer; her breakdowns; his own youthful exultations and expectations; his own high promise; his own great social charm; his own weariness and disillusion following his spent early success; and his own destructive alcoholism and his frequent nastiness when he was drunk. Nevertheless, the fictional character of the “spoiled priest,”3 Diver the doctor was by no means an autobiographical photograph of the spoiled priest, Fitzgerald the author. Yet, some contemporary (1934-40) reviews insisted on identifying Diver as Fitzgerald and thereby helped consign the book, its characters, and its author to the detritus of a wanton pre-Depression past best forgotten as frivolity.4

As a result of this equation of historical fact with fictional recreation, contemporary readers identified Dick Diver as a thoroughly contemporary man of the 1920s (when the action of the book takes place) and the 1930s (when most contemporary readers and reviewers too quickly read and reviewed it). Scott and Zelda, victims of their own notoriety, became such one-dimensionally popularized national properties that even today many casual readers respond to Tender is the Night the way contemporaneous reviewers did. There is little or no popular inkling that Fitzgerald or any of his characters might also have belonged, as both he and Diver did, to an old-fashioned, pre-war age of manners and courtesy, when gentlemen and ladies wore pince-nez spectacles, divorce was taboo, and girls saved their virginity for marriage.

Some first-time readers still dismiss Dick Diver as a social idler: a cosmopolitan companion and a charming host parasitically living on the Warren wealth and self-indulgently avoiding the work he had intended to do. Some even see Diver as a gigolo who married Nicole for her money. No assumptions could be more mistaken, yet they arise understandably from the subtlety with which Fitzgerald made his hero out of the intricacy and complexity of human personality, as well as from the shallow preconceptions of Fitzgeraldiana with which some readers dimly make out his hero. The mistaken identification of Dick also arises from what Fitzgerald came to see as a structural problem concerning the way the novel begins.

The text of Tender is the Night presents special and vexing problems, and “when this story begins”5 is especially problematical. Fitzgerald worked intermittently on the novel for nine years, with some long, bitter, and extremely distracting lapses. In the wearisome and worrisome process he created three versions and seventeen drafts of what became Tender is the Night. But he remained insecure about how “this story begins”as he kept rewriting it, completing the version that was serialized in Scribner’s Magazine during the winter and spring of 1933-4. Still uneasy, he made changes, sometimes frantically, in the serial version in preparation for its publication as a book. He continued to make changes in the proofsheets of the book right up to publication. In response to the book’s cool reception, by May of 1936 certainly, and probably earlier, Fitzgerald returned to doubting the clarity of the novel’s time sequences and he began to think anew about changes.

He prepared what amounts to an eighteenth draft, making changes in the order of scenes in one of his copies of the first edition, revising “when this story begins.” Almost five years after the first edition, on the day before Christmas 1938, Fitzgerald wrote to his friend and editor, Maxwell Perkins, that the book’s “great fault is that the true beginning—the young psychiatrist in Switzerland—is tucked away in the middle of the book”(Letters, 281). Fitzgerald was restating the doubts and difficulties he had experienced with Book i in various drafts of the novel, long before book publication and critical reception. But although until his death Fitzgerald apparently maintained his intention of an eighteenth draft, in the financial straits of the Depression no publisher would undertake what Fitzgerald called his “final version.”6 He died without fully completing the changes in the book as he wanted it.7 What he wanted was the long, steady “dying fall” of Dick Diver from his transcendent possibilities at “the book’s true beginning” to the suffocatingly understated sense of loss in the book’s last two paragraphs. “The first part, the romantic introduction,” Fitzgerald wrote to H. L. Mencken shortly after the book was published,

was too long and too elaborated largely because of the fact that it had been written over a series of years with varying plans, but everything else in the book conformed to a definite intention and if I had to start to write it again tomorrow I would adopt the same plan… That is what most of the critics fail to understand (outside of the fact that they fail to understand and identify anything in the book): that the motif of the “dying fall” was absolutely deliberate and did not come from any diminution of vitality but from a definite plan. (Letters, 510)8

Whatever else can be said by revisionist or anti-revisionist commentators, Fitzgerald’s uncompleted revision clearly emphasizes the dying fall. In either version the last two chapters are irresistible examples of Fitzgerald’s creation of overpowering evocativeness out of relative stylistic sparseness.

In parody or in earnest, the styles of the two other American giants of Fitzgerald’s time, Hemingway and Faulkner, have been imitated or echoed. But Fitzgerald’s style remains inimitable, for it is woven out of a gossamer evocativeness—Fitzgerald called it “hauntedness”—that is the essence of the impeccable diction with which his treatment of golden moments, memory, expectations, love, and loss become so moving. But whether in “blankets” or in comparative spareness, the major artistic function of Fitzgerald’s evocative language is to organize the coherent narrative motifs that create his themes. The complex interweaving of themes in Tender is the Night is among the richest of aesthetically and intellectually satisfying performances in American literature.

Consider the pattern of nationality and race that begins near the opening of the novel and that initiates the theme of America and Europe. This “international theme” pervades American literature, and in Tender is the Night it is substantively (certainly not stylistically) reminiscent of the early Henry James. In an early humorous passage Tommy Barban reads names from The New York Herald:

“Well, what nationality are these people?” he demanded suddenly, and read with a slight French intonation, “‘Registered at the Hotel Palace at Vevey are Mr. Pandely Vlasco, Mme. Bonneasse’—-I don’t exaggerate—‘Corinna Medonca, Mme. Pasche, Seraphim Tullio, Maria Amalia Roto Mais, Moises Teubel, Mme. Paragoris, Apostle Alexandre, Yolanda Yosfuglu and Geneveva de Momus!’ She attracts me most—Geneveva de Momus.” (TITN, 21)

With his half-American Tommy Barban reading opaque and mysterious names with “a slight French intonation,” Fitzgerald begins to establish a pattern of confusion and disintegration attendant upon the disappearance of reliably established identity. By itself the instance is merely a funny moment at the beach. But in its preparation for other appearances of the theme, the significance of this moment expands as part of the totality of the novel’s ideas. Thus, much later in the book, when Mary North becomes Mary Minghetti, the presentation of her second husband has a prepared context in which the presentation and the context enrich each other:

“Conte di Minghetti” was merely a papal title—the wealth of Mary’s husband flowed from… southwestern Asia. He was not quite light enough to travel in a Pullman south of Mason-Dixon; he was of the Kabyle-Berber-Sabaean-Hindu strain that belts across north Africa and Asia, more sympathetic to the European than the mongrel faces of the ports. (266)

By itself, this Portrait of Hybrid might be comic, like the names Tommy reads on the beach. But within the expanding context of identities, especially because Mary had been the wife of an Abe ironically associated with Lincoln, it takes on dark undertones of the racism and exclusionary class consciousness that characterizes the international Warren world—a warren indeed!—within which Dick exists. In deliberate affront to what his world and he himself have become, both of which he has come to despise, the older, ruined Dick uses racist slurs that the altruistic young Doctor Diver would have abhorred. His language becomes one of the signs of the extent to which his—and his world’s—disintegration has progressed.

The themes are many and complex. They include war (the book’s central metaphor for moral chaos and the destruction of humane values and relationships), identity (the overall theme), wealth, the movies, acting, swimming, the New Woman, the fathers, Europe and America, priestliness, past and present, sun and moon, heat and coolness, black and white, as probably the most prominent, though there are several more. This chapter can only suggest the essential nature of the novel, and will touch on the international theme via the companion themes of war, the fathers, and the New Woman. It is helpful to place these themes in the context of Tender is the Night’s relation to Western history surrounding World War I. The essential setting of the book is post-war Western-world confusion as that world undergoes disintegrations and refashionings in a morass of identity. Tender is the Night is not a great American historical novel. Rather, it is a great American novel about history, a chronicle of post-war loss of the kinds of identities associated with stable societies, social altruism, and personal responsibility. The story of Dick Diver is a microcosm of that history.

Dynamic and accomplished, young Dick Diver is nevertheless vulnerable in his contradictions. He is a self-sacrificial enthusiast, an unworldly naif, and yet a sophisticated man of brilliant studiousness. He is a romantic of deep feeling and yet a man of strong self-discipline. He is youthfully exuberant and extravagantly hopeful, yet restrained by a deep sense of moral obligation. He is highly educated and internationally traveled, yet, for all of Yale and Johns Hopkins and Oxford and Zurich, he begins his story as a shiningeyed kid from the country, an idealistically optimistic young American, fresh from the dewiness of his family’s pioneer history and his father’s ministerial background. He is bursting with limitless expectations and promise. He is yet to discover the extent to which his world is heir to legacies from fathers other than his own.

Fitzgerald develops a dualism in the legacy of the fathers, both American and European. The good European fathers leave a legacy of magnificent knowledge and civilization; the bad ones are internationally indistinguishable from the American Warrens. The bad American fathers represent a continuing legacy of “the forces of lust and corruption” (TITN, 74) in the historical America. Sid Warren, the founder of his dynasty, was a rough “white-eyed” crook. But the good American fathers, the Divers, represent the legacy of the idea of America, a dream of goodness and transcendent self. Home, America, is a romantically hypothesized history that is all innocent youth and world-redeeming service. Dick Diver’s father was an honest minister who believed in service and courtesy and lived by the great words he preached. “Dick loved his father—again and again he referred judgments to what his father probably would have thought or done” (211).

Because of what he associates with these determining “Diver” aspects of Americanness, Fitzgerald defines Dick’s vulnerability as a self-annihilatingly romantic need to be used and to be loved. It was with the great words and great concepts and great idealism that Dick arrived at the snakepit of historical actualities epitomized by the operative America and Europe of a present day that has emerged from the international war. His charm lay in his endless need to serve and be useful, to put into action his desire to redeem, to heal, to create love.

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. (123)

From the very beginning of his story Dick had intuited that “the price of his intactness was his incompleteness,” and that if he were to reach the power of his full maturity in the hard actualities of a fallen world, his education required some disillusioning finishing strokes of experience: he had been too lucky; “he must be less intact, even faintly destroyed” (122). Nevertheless, at the end of his story, when there was nothing left to believe in and little left of the man he used to be, even then he still responded to the corrupt “new” world with a deeply instilled exercise of

the old fatal pleasingness, the old forceful charm, [that] swept back with its cry of “Use me!” … 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… 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, he saw… (308)

Diver is a very mixed hero. His genuinely heroic qualities and transcendent possibilities are used up and thrown away not only by the corrupt world around him but also by his own outworn pre-war romantic idealism, whose erosion was to lead increasingly to his alcoholism and his descent into oblivion. Fitzgerald makes the name Diver connote at least two ideas. One is Dick’s deep diving into learning, discipline, creativity, and the moral identity Dick learned from his father and aunts, all metaphorically suggested by Dick’s superb aquatic abilities in his younger days. The other is the dying fall, Dick’s long dive into disintegration and oblivion, metaphorically related through the swimming theme with the older, dissipated, and exhausted Dick’s inability to perform aquatically. The totality of the dive is indicated in Fitzgerald’s hint of priapic overtones in making the man who once had been “Lucky Dick,” the “big stiff” (122), go limp, repeatedly unable to “rise” on the aquaplane (290-1). We can measure the life of Dr. Richard Diver as a paradigm of the larger context of the international theme of history. Europe’s “Vienna was old with death” (121-2), but the novel presents America’s Diver in his young manhood and gives us a picture of a vigorous American postwar youth: “twenty-seven years old, a fine age for a man, indeed the very acme of bachelorhood” (121). Dick “swam in the winter Danube” and “had done the flying rings at New Haven” (122). We see him bicycling and climbing mountains. He is unselfconsciously attractive, handsome, and strong. His superior mind is as clear as his bright blue eyes, and it creatively absorbs and completely retains bookful after bookful of medical studies (122). This Oxford Rhodes Scholar from Yale, who is also a Johns Hopkins M.D., is in the expectant, hopeful, healthy prime of his energy, planning transcendently to cure the sick post-war world by being “a good psychologist—maybe to be the greatest one that ever lived.”

“That’s very good—and very American,” replies the Swiss Franz Gregorovius (138), who earlier had remarked on Dick’s “unaging American face” (124) and who was to remark that Dick can get away with large and visionary new medical ideas because “You are an American” (146). From the outset Dick exemplifies America in the fresh morning of its vigor and idealistic expectations. In Franz’s littered study, which is full of smoke, stuffy and dark with “the Swiss piety” of the world of Franz’s father and grandfather, Dick opens wide a French window to let in fesh air and “a cone of sunshine” (126). No stuffy old world aristocrat conformist with gold-headed walking-stick and pince-nez he. Just as Dick is associated with young energy, Europe, on the other hand is at once associated with the decayed old world of aristocracy “when this story begins.” Gausse’s Hotel is on the Mediterranean, situated “about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border” with an “English clientele.” It stands amidst “a dozen old villas rotted like water lilies” (8), on a vacation coast that for years had been played in by the visiting pre-revolutionary Russian nobility, now moribund and “never coming back any more” (19). And in contrast to the zest with which Dick had swum the winter Danube, on this European shore of cane-strutting, be-monocled and be-pince-nezed Europeans, only one man “came down to the beach in a blue bathrobe and with much preliminary application to his person of the chilly water, and much grunting and loud breathing, floundered a minute in the sea” (7) and then left.

But as he does throughout the book, Fitzgerald leaves nothing one-dimensional. For “when this story begins” with Rosemary’s entrance, Dick Diver does in fact use both gold-headed cane and eyeglasses—pince-nez, no less. Fitzgerald mentions the glasses only twice (174, 216), their pearl-mounted black cord only once (216), and Dick’s walking-sticks only three times (87, 95, 272-3). The casual throwaway of these details—the most surprising and unexpected of all details for the presentation of a post-war, modern, young American hero—is in itself an indication of the extent to which much of the amalgam of associations in Fitzgerald’s mind and times belonged to a pre-war world of customs and manners, as did his protagonist’s. Because Fitzgerald and his writings are too closely identified with the 1920s and 1930s, commentators seldom note that the author and his works emerge from a prewar background compounded of nineteenth-century sensibilities.9 From that background Fitzgerald took as givens images and attitudes that lend his work subtle pre-war undertones. The very minor but significantly representative details of canes and eyeglasses are elements of what in many ways is a fin-de-siecle “feel” in this very twentieth-century post-war novel. As walking-sticks and monocles were disappearing in the first four decades of the twentieth century, pince-nez, which had been common, came to designate people of aristocracy or of solid substance and achievement. In the 1920s they designated people who were not of the modern moment only but who retained something of a more old-fashioned pre-war world. Even “plain” Calvin Coolidge changed from blackrimmed eyeglasses to “a pair of small pince-nez with a gold nosepiece and a long black cord” for a Presidential presence, and P. G. Wodehouse humorously found pince-nez appropriate for “1) good college professors, 2) bank presidents and 3) musicians.”10 All the American Presidents of Fitzgerald’s lifetime emerged from a pre-World War I world. Franklin Roosevelt, whom Fitzgerald admired, was one of the last American aristocrats who could wear pince-nez without looking silly (as had also been true of his kinsman, Theodore Roosevelt, and “The War President,” Woodrow Wilson), and wear them FDR did, throughout the years Fitzgerald was completing Tender is the Night. The point of paying attention to this detail is that it reveals a pervasive and general background sense of a decorous pre-war world in which, for all its murderous corruptions and hypocrisies, the assumed values of manners, courtesy, honor, and politeness in a stable and predictable society were elegantly summed up by walking-sticks and a fashion in eyeglasses. Dick is not just young American Dick in the Roaring Twenties: he is also Doctor Diver, who was formed by nineteenth-century forebears and who has some very old-fashioned virtues and ideas of morality—just as, astonishingly but essentially, did F. Scott Fitzgerald. Unlike the work of most of Fitzgerald’s best-known contemporaries, Tender is the Night is not generally thought of as a war novel because it is not set in the war. But no novel written in the so-called “lost generation” more deeply or centrally probes the significance of the war’s legacy. Like the American and European fathers, both the pre-war and post-war worlds have conflicting qualities within themselves. Both worlds are postulated against the book’s dominant background, World War I.

World War I changed the human universe, quite literally. The Western world, especially, was never the same again. The war was the last cataclysmic gasp of British and French empire; it was the devastating interruption of an attempt at German empire; it brought about fundamental change in governmental structures and social foundations. In its aftermath of enveloping cynicism and profoundly anarchic disillusion, it gave enormous impetus to everything anti-establishmentarian, socially and politically, and to everything existential, personally and culturally. On the political level the war was the violent midwife at the chaotic births of the Russian Revolution, of Italian Fascism, and of German Nazism, all of which Fitzgerald lived to see. It brought about the modern totalitarian state at the same time that in large measure it destroyed popular acquiescence in pre-war governmental and social systems fixed in the absolutes of a conformist underclass and a privileged peerage and moneyed class. In America the war brought about a hysteria of superpatriotic backlash, which Fitzgerald captured in his story, “May Day” (1920), against the radically dissenting impulses born of angry post-war disillusion. The upheaval of the war was such a wrench from the past that it dissolved the very structures of beliefs and values that had been the shibboleths by which vast populations had regulated their lives.

Perhaps the most important war death of all was one that went unnoticed, or at least unnamed at the time: the demise of the belief of the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Western world in perfectibility. The ongoing twentieth century was to encompass a tension between realpolitik and what was left of perfectibilitarian hope; it would take the remainder of the century and the horrors and aftermath of World War II to bury the fond hope of complete human redemption. Dick Diver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and “the American Century” were born in an idealistic expectation of perfectibility that had been a certitude of the good fathers. Diver and Fitzgerald came to recognize the loss, tragedy, and adulthood attendant upon its death, not even knowing the name of the corpse. But Fitzgerald, like Diver, knew its features in the very marrow of his life and, lovingly mourning, came to reject its sometime promise as an illusion ironically fundamental to the resplendent idea of America.

Accompanying Rosemary Hoyt and Abe North during a visit to the trenches between Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval, Dick sums up Fitzgerald’s profound sense of the massive change World War I effected in human history and behavior. He defines the motivation for sacrifice characterized by the difference in mass loyalties before and after the battle that had been fought in those trenches.

“This land here cost twenty lives a foot that summer,” Dick explained to Rosemary.11

“See that little stream—we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it—a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation.”

“Why, they’ve only just quit over in Turkey,” said Abe. “And in Morocco—” “That’s different. This western-front business couldn’t be done again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn’t. They could fight the first Marne again, but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes … You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancee, and little cafes 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” [interposed Abe].

“No, he didn’t—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 Wurtemburg and Westphalia. Why, this was a love-battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here. This was the last love-battle.” (TITN, 61-2)

When Abe mocks Dick by saying, “You want to hand over this battle to D. H. Lawrence,” Dick replies in a way that reveals his romanticism and its related old-fashioned idealization of a historical legacy from his minister-father’s American context. The legacy extends from the pathfinding seventeenth century to the immediate pre-war past, and Dick nostalgically identifies it with altruism, stable values, and a predictable world: “‘All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love,’ Dick mourned” (62).

But in weaving his international theme into the war theme, Fitzgerald suggests that however far back we look, even in the seventeenth-and eighteenth-century American context of Dick’s father’s forefathers (the “Divers, Dorseys and Hunters… [t]hese dead” with “their weather-beaten faces with flashing blue eyes, the spare violent bodies, the souls made of new earth in the forest-heavy darkness of the seventeenth-century” [213]), in historical actuality we find a catalogue of wars, each unfolding into the next. He uses the American Civil War in Dick’s father’s life as an adumbration of World War I and he hints of seventeenth-century violence and the American Indian wars as adumbrations of the Civil War. Abe’s drunken involvement with Swedish and American blacks in Paris is referred to as a war between hostile and friendly Indians (111, 115), and the event of Peterson’s murder is at once merged with the Civil War. Caught up in the mess Abe’s alcoholic lunacy has created, Dick refuses to give Abe anything more to drink. Abe “waved his finger reproachfully at Dick. ‘But remember what George the Third said, that if Grant was drunk he wished he would bite the other generals’” (113). Indian wars, the Revolutionary War via George the Third, and the Civil War all become one in Abe’s drunken deterioration, which foreshadows Dick’s own dissolution. At “the true beginning” of Dick’s story Fitzgerald suggests the connections by telling us that Dick, “the hero, like Grant lolling in… Galena, is ready to be called to an intricate destiny” (123). And to indicate that the elaborately patterned war references are not accidental, at the very end of Dick’s story and the demise of his grand destiny, Fitzgerald symmetrically and ironically rounds off his narrative with Nicole dismissively thinking that Dick’s “career was biding its time, again like Grant’s in Galena… ”(321).

As the war motif makes all the pasts prologue to the international present, so Abe North’s degeneration prefigures Dick Diver’s: the brilliantly creative young American who promises a whole new world of wonders dives into disintegration. Reciprocatingly, the developing illumination of Dick’s decline sheds some shadowy light backwards on Abe’s collapse, which Fitzgerald deliberately leaves unspecified as a non-diversionary part of the general background of Dick’s history. And as Fitzgerald ties Abe to Dick, he ties them both to America, so that their personal histories become metaphors for national history. Like America itself they both began in revolutionary new visions, romantic expectations, and brilliantly transcendent promise. The nationally ideal and idealized self-sacrificially altruistic icons are summed up in heroes like Abraham Lincoln, who stood forth to bring national unity and moral redemption. Abe of the North (in one draft of the novel Abe North was Abe Grant) marries a woman named Mary. He has a “slow and shy” voice, a sad face, “the high cheekbones of an Indian, a long upper lip and… deepset… eyes”(13). Although in many details Abe North was in part consciously modeled on Fitzgerald’s friend, Ring Lardner, he clearly is also a type of Lincoln.

But when this disintegrated Abe becomes involved in the fate of black people, the ironic result is the death and imprisonment of blacks. It is typical of Fitzgerald’s fine touch that the black who loses his freedom at the hands of this ironically and tragically offered latter-day Great Emancipator is named Freeman. The corruption of the legacy of Lincoln in the legacy of the Grant administration is encompassed in the devolution from the great Abe of the North to an Abe North whose drunken ruin of his great promise is the debauched national heritage after the war. With Abe Lincoln, Abe North, U. S. Grant, and Lucky Dick all in intricate association, the long, diving “dying fall” of Dick Diver is a paradigmatic expression of Fitzgerald’s tragic sense of America’s and the Western world’s history.

The suggestions of America’s wars are brought up to date and interwoven with World War I through subtle references to war, weapons, and combat that pepper the novel and are associated with everyone in the story. Dr. Richard Diver gradually and against all his discipline and intentions had “somehow permitted his arsenal to be locked up in the Warren safety-deposit vaults” and his “spear had been blunted” (209) during a long campaign in which, he came to realize, he had “wasted eight years teaching the rich the ABCs of human decency” (210).

Shortly after the opening of Dr. Diver’s European history, the moment that expresses the very beginning of Dick’s and Nicole’s lovemaking has as its background the blast of field artillery. For this romance the guns fire to save things, to break up hail clouds that threaten to bring destruction to the vineyards. In ironic parallel, shortly before the close of Dr. Diver’s European history, the moment that expresses the very beginning of Tommy’s and Nicole’s lovemaking has as its background the blast of naval artillery. For this romance the guns of a United States battleship fire to recall the sailors from their shoreleave of whoring, boozing, and—as the scene makes explicitly clear—fighting. But for both romances the background is an echo of war. The juxtaposition is ripe with the historical complexities and ironies of Fitzgerald’s implicit comments.

There is not enough space here to instance each reference to war and weapons, but a few will indicate Fitzgerald’s conscious artistry. Rosemary’s lovelocks are “an armorial shield” (8); her mother is named Speers and Mrs. Speers’s two husbands were army officers (16); the capitalist lord, Devereux Warren, is so economically and politically powerful that he is able to commandeer a United States Navy cruiser during wartime to bring his daughter to Europe for treatment (134); Tommy Barban, the victor with a “martial laugh” (205), is a professional soldier who has “worn the uniforms of eight countries”(34); Abe pretends to be General Pershing (83); Dick has war nightmares (188) and awakens to the slow memorial march of war veterans (208); Dick’s favorite patient, the dying woman with eczema, is a victim of women’s battles with men (191-3); Dick feels that the atmosphere in a restaurant where he is dining is consecrated by the presence of the “gold star muzzers” who have come to Europe to visit their sons’ graves (105); Dick’s skill as a host acutely aware of his guests’ psychological needs is cast in terms of generals moving armies (31, 83).

Among the many war references are two central instances, both related to the emergence of the “New Woman.” In one, the scene in which the hungover Abe is leaving Paris at the Gare Saint Lazare, Maria Wallis, a woman with “helmet-like hair,” shoots her lover “through his identification card”(88). A porter discussing the event with his friend says, “Tu as vu sa chemise? Assez de sang pour se croire a la guerre” (90). (“Did you see his shirt? So much blood you’d think it was the war.”) That is the only appearance of Maria Wallis in the novel; however, the scene not only unites the motifs of identity and war (the war shoots identities to pieces), but it is the central scene in which Dick, unable for once to take care of things in his endless combat with circumstances, loses dominance as the omnipotent manager of all situations. It is the first forewarning that Dick might have a less controlling place than Nicole in the rampaging chaos of the new post-war society, and that the world in which Baby Warren of the international set inherits the power has supplanted the altruistic and moral aspect of the young America from which Dick had come. Everything has changed with the shots of Maria Wallis’s revolver: “as if nothing had happened, the lives of the Divers and their friends flowed out into the street. However, everything had happened” (90).

The second central battle scene is the final confrontation between Dick and Nicole. Even before Rosemary first comes to Dick’s beach, Dick has recognized that the unremitting need for his incessant nurturing of Nicole is draining him empty and leaving him starved for the self he once was and the love he once imagined. Also he has come to the recognition (the rising waves of the silent, bitter, interior laughter that characterize his sardonic feelings at the end of the novel) that the fault is his, too, for being such a romantic fool as to imagine that he could heal the world’s trauma or that he could cure Nicole and, as her lover and husband, remain immune to the process. Diver the doctor knows that the ultimate act he can make to effect Nicole’s final independence, and thus the completion of her cure, is to direct her into one more sexual transference—from himself to another man, just as he had begun her cure by directing her transference from her father to himself. Dick Diver the husband is agonized by what Dr. Diver the healer knows. In the last few of the approximately twelve years of marriage12 he has to allow himself to acknowledge the resentment he feels about what life with Nicole and her world has done to him. He has to harden himself against her in order to be able to bring her to free herself from him, thus giving her the supreme gift of her own self. For him it has become “difficult now to distinguish between his self-protective professional detachment and some new coldness in his heart… he had learned to become empty of Nicole, serving her against his will with negations and emotional neglect” (176). His growing distaste for his Warren-life helps him to undertake the battle of his greatest and most self-sacrificial cure. Fitzgerald brilliantly avoids heavy-handed sentimentality in developing the action. Readers must be alert to the subtle but several implications (most of them in Nicole’s own fleeting thoughts) that Dick knows beforehand what is going to happen between Nicole and Tommy Barban, and that he plans her freedom (see especially 294-5). His only self-protection is to wince and say to Nicole, “Don’t tell me about it. It doesn’t matter what you do, only I don’t want to know anything definitely” (305).

In his exhausted state, deep in the stale human contaminations of the world’s immemorial social and sexual corruptions, Dick has a desperate need for the beauty of freshness and innocence. His adolescently frantic attraction to new love, exemplified by dewy youth, is what makes the Rosemary story such an integral part of the novel’s plot. Dick’s is no mere midlife crisis, no seamy middle-aged lust for young flesh. Dick has been reduced to his recognition that he has given himself, with all the ridiculousness of a Don Quixote, to the salvation of an unsalvageable world not worth saving. His bitter resentment of the baby-new, blithely free Nicole, whom he has liberated at every cost to what he had been, is surpassed only by his ridicule and loathing of himself—he should have known better in the first place, but he had had the bad luck to fall in love. All that is left to him in his last battle is a lashing out—a symptomatic racism, xenophobia, a short-tempered nasty honesty, and that hideously hilarious internal giggle—at what a farce his world and life have become.

The two pages in which Nicole observes Dick in his pain and in which he initiates the final battle between them, after which he leans his defeated head on the parapet, is one of the most excruciating and passionately moving scenes in American literature. The break itself is cast in the imagery of war. It is a summation of all the wars and major motifs in the book: between past and present, between the sexes, between wealth and dependence, between new irresponsible freedom and old responsibilities, between obliviously destructive selfishness and old courtesies and honor, between free amorality and reliable morality, between impulsive gratification and thoughtful self-discipline, between the fathers, both American and European, who left a legacy of sexual chaos and destruction of identity and the fathers, both American and European, who bequeathed a rich legacy of culture and highly responsible identity. Nicole fights fiercely, using

her unscrupulousness against his moralities—for this inner battle she used even her weaknesses—fighting bravely and courageously with the old cans and crockery and bottles, empty receptacles of her expiated sins, outrages, mistakes. And suddenly, in the space of two minutes she achieved her victory and justified herself to herself without lie or subterfuge, cut the cord forever. (306-7)

She discards Dick. The “household… was hers at last… The case was finished. Doctor Diver was at liberty” (307). All the old hopes of the Diver legacy have been used for the victory of the Warren legacy. And in the process of this war the new Nicole Warren is born, or rather she becomes “what she had been in the beginning”(302): the untrammeled adventurer with her “white crook’s eyes” is at last set free to inherit the “broken universe of the war’s ending” (253) with her money. 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” (297).

Interwoven with the ubiquitous “daddy’s girl” motif, the theme of the birth of the New Woman, like the theme of the fathers or the international theme, is as pervasive as the central metaphor of war. It is one of the most pointed patterns of significance in Tender is the Night. It was a prominent theme in much of the fiction that arose from the legacy of World War I, which released smoldering feminist energies. The most popular of the new heroines in Fitzgerald’s day was Hemingway’s Lady Brett Ashley. In American fiction her ground had been prepared by many writers predating and culminating in Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Theodore Dreiser. Europe had created its variations on the theme for the literary moment, all the way back from Lysistrata to Emma Bovary, Hedda Gabler, Nora Helmer, and then to the most celebrated Lady Chatterley, who made her debut six years before the Warren girls.

In the old pre-war world that Nicole, Rosemary, and Mary North had been born into, women who were comfortable in that world’s comfortable values had identities comfortably prepared for them. Fitzgerald contemplates these American women:

The trio of women at the table were representative of the enormous flux of American life. Nicole was the grand-daughter of a self-made American capitalist and a grand-daughter of a count of the House of Lippe Weissenfeld. Mary North was the daughter of a journeyman paper-hanger and a descendant of President Tyler. Rosemary was from the middle of the middle class, catapulted by her mother onto the uncharted heights of Hollywood. Their point of resemblance to each other, and their difference from so many American women, lay in the fact that they were all happy to exist in a man’s world—they preserved their individuality through men and not by opposition to them. They would all three have made alternatively good courtesans or good wives not by the accident of birth but through the greater accident of finding their man or not finding him. (57)

Along with its legacy of hypocrisy and corruption the past also had offered a world in which men were supposed to have had a role and an identity that women could rely on and in which women were supposed to have had a role and an identity that men could rely on: “Up to a point that was right: men were for that, beam and idea, girder and logarithm… [men and women] opposite and complementary” (199).

But the war tore off the surface suppositions of the comfortably respectable world and exploded them to shreds. They could not be reassembled by the “gray-haired men of the golden nineties who shouted old glees at the piano” in the 1920s, allowing Dick to pretend for a moment “that the world was all put together again” (182). The world will change most ironically for Mary, Rosemary, and Nicole, and so will they. In the internationalized, chaotic post-war world American Mary North, in becoming the Contessa di Minghetti, with her power and hauteur of wealth and position, becomes, like her Himadoun sisters-in-law, even more of a feudal subject to “her man” than she ever had been to Abe. In that same world, the innocent young American Rosemary will become as sexually free a woman as she is economically free, yet will be a Hollywood sex object who will take her choices from an endless supply of Signor Nicoteras. And American Nicole, foreseeing her own procession of men to play with, “none of whom she need obey or even love” (299), chooses her Frenchified Barbarian, the totally overmastering male. As for the despicably corrupt English Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers, who brings Mary North di Minghetti into her bisexual escapades, old Gausse sums up their entire new world by kicking the bottom of Lady Caroline as hard as he can, sending her deservedly sprawling, as he says to Dick: “I have never seen women like this sort of women. I have known many of the great courtesans of the world, and for them I have much respect often, but women like these women I have never seen before” (312).

In the ironic, historical view of plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose with which he contemplates the international, intersexual chaos of the privileged classes, celebrities, and adventurers in the Western post-war world, Fitzgerald presents a crowded roomful of avant-garde women, both heterosexual and lesbian, malicious, some with necks and heads “like cobras’ hoods” (78). They are clustered in a futuristic modern-world “Frankenstein” (78) of a house whose interior is as “perverted as a breakfast of oatmeal and hashish” (77). Outwardly unchanged, it is the old palace of the Cardinal de Retz and it stands in the—perfect irony—rue Monsieur.

Irony becomes inescapable, as when “war” and “the New Woman” merge in the climactic mating of Tommy and Nicole: in her anarchic new sexual (and supposedly all other) freedoms she is depicted as the bound sexual trophy of the conquering warrior:

Symbolically she lay across his saddle-bow as surely as if he had wolfed her away from Damascus and they had come out upon the Mongolian plain. Moment by moment all that Dick had taught her [the moral burdens of discipline, self-control, responsibility, and order] fell away and she was ever nearer to what she had been in the beginning, prototype of that obscure yielding up of swords that was going on in the world about her. Tangled with love in the moonlight she welcomed the anarchy of her lover. (302)

The old familiar Western world is replaced by new and alien (“Mongolian”) perspectives of a different world—“She liked his bringing her there to the eastward vision” (302). Historically, the idea of the New Woman by no means centered exclusively on sexual activity. But in the post-war ferment, sex, as a salient symbol of the type and the movement, rose like skirt hemlines in a repudiation of the hypocritical old double sexual standard, with concomitant insistence on the sexes’ equal rights and statures in all political, economic, and social identities.

Fitzgerald’s picture of the New Woman is not an anti-feminist pastiche; rather it is anti-the identity-destroying moral chaos that the Warren world offered as freedom to all sexual identities. Fitzgerald never had any argument with women’s struggle for the vote, for better working conditions, for equal rights, and equal opportunities. His correspondence indicates that as someone responsive to the American 1930s vision of Marxism in a decade of rising national discontent, he was sympathetic to the struggles of those who were oppressed. But those specifics were not his materials. Within his own context, Fitzgerald focused not on the woman’s movement as such but on the extent to which it was an emblematic function of fundamental change. Unhappily, he saw that change taking place in a world in disintegration, blindly and mistakenly declaring itself free of everything in the past. And the consequences of that supposed liberation continued crazily to victimize everyone.

Consequently, Fitzgerald incorporated complexities and multiple ironies concerning the liberation of the New Woman, as a central concern that he inextricably interwove with all the other themes, especially those of war, the fathers, the movies, and babylike immaturity. Tommy looks at the newly free Nicole who now is his ward. Fittingly, Tommy is the barbarian dominator who belongs in the licentious post-war world and is Fitzgerald’s prototype of the fascist. He measures Nicole and says, “You are all new like a baby” (300). It is an ironic sign of the post-war insanity that with his mastery of women by means of “all the old Languedoc peasant remedies” (300)—phallic and oral puns intended—Tommy should be the one to scoff at “all this taming of women”(298). What he means by untamed women is limited entirely to sexual abandon.

With the post-war woman as new as a baby, Fitzgerald adds dimensions to the theme of identity in the shifting social values of the war’s aftermath. Women are liberated—but into what? Women are new, like babies, and can now become anything their men have become—but what is that? What Fitzgerald put into Tender is the Night is his sense that if old values and old beliefs like “‘good instincts,’ honor, courtesy, and courage” (212) are gone; if old communities have lost their meaning and are replaced only with personal access to money and empowerment; then men and women alike have only their own selfish desires and personal perspectives to constitute both reality and morality. Fitzgerald saw this as especially true of the very rich in the rampaging capitalism of the post-war decade. “‘You’ve got too much money,’… [Tommy] said impatiently [to Nicole]. ‘That’s the crux of the matter. Dick can’t beat that’” (298).

One of Fitzgerald’s intuitions about the historical meaning of the war and its aftermath is that women inevitably will be more free and no longer content merely “to exist in a man’s world.” But because men and women have become freed into an anarchic amorality bereft of the disciplined adult’s sense of consequences and obligation, they are reduced to infantile irresponsibility. The practice of that fundamental irresponsibility in the world of privilege is demonstrated by Devereux Warren, when he places the mess he has created—and plenty of American money—in old Dr. Dohmler’s professionally competent hands: “look here, Doctor, that’s just what you’re for. I have a hurry call to go home!” (135). Such assertive irresponsibility depersonalizes human beings, no matter how rare or precious they might be, into conveniences of lust, power, or money. The display of that irresponsibility is breathtakingly continued by Sid and Devereux’s true Baby Warren, the real daddy’s girl, when she says in reply to Nicole’s protestations that the Dr. Diver she has just cast away had been a good husband to her for many years, “That’s what he was educated for” (318). Baby always had wanted to buy a nice doctor who would take care of Nicole and relieve the Warrens of any responsibility: “I can’t understand… what we’re supposed to do” (159).13

The criminal irresponsibility of the Warrens is a benchmark of their international set’s rootlessness. Unlike the Divers’ American rootedness in “the low forested clayland of Westmoreland County” (213), for the Warrens and their playmates everywhere is home, and there is no home. Home is Chicago, Rome, London, the Riviera, Switzerland. Home is someone’s yacht or a transoceanic liner where one “is a citizen of a commonwealth smaller than Andorra” (213). Home is a “Balkan-like state composed of… Europeanized Americans who… could scarcely have been said to belong to any nation at all” (292). “Home!” roared Nicole in another onset of her father-generated madness. “And sit and think that we’re all rotting and the children’s ashes are rotting in every box I open? That filth?” (198). Rot and filth indeed, and Fitzgerald misses no chances: Devereux’s wormfilled legacy is in the French of his given name. De[s] vereux literally means of maggots—belonging to that which is maggoty. In this rootlessness of identity the “emergent Amazons” (185) triumphantly take their places in the post-war world the Warren fathers have left them. Daddy’s Girl Rosemary and “daddy’s girl” Nicole discover that in their young girlhoods they had both lived on the same street in Paris. The name of that street is rue des Saints-Peres (73).

Because it is men like Nicole’s and Baby’s father who end up owning America, the popular culture of America has become irresponsible and venal, a stew of immature sentimentality. Fitzgerald makes that observation another dimension of the intertwined father and baby motifs. Rosemary’s role of “Daddy’s Girl,” as different as it was from poor Nicole’s (but even at that, the movie displayed “a father complex so apparent that Dick winced for all psychologists” [74]) is sign and consequence of the society that pays homage to the fabulous Warren wealth and the transmittal of all its origins and consequences to America in a debased popular culture. Daddy’s girl on the silver screen:

there she was—so young and innocent… there she was—embodying all the immaturity of the race, cutting a new cardboard paper doll to pass before its empty harlot’s mind …

Daddy’s girl. Was it a ’itty-bitty bravekins and did it suffer? Ooo-ooo-tweet, de tweetest thing, wasn’t she dest too tweet? Before her tiny fist the forces of lust and corruption rolled away; nay, the very march of destiny stopped; inevitability became evitable; syllogism, dialectic, all rationality fell away. (74)

Dick had resented “the nursery footing” (89) on which Rosemary had kept the beginning of their affair, and, in one of Fitzgerald’s most complicated inversions, Nicole continued to get sustenance by “dry suckling at… [Dick’s] lean chest” (285) long after he had any nourishment to give her.

The triumphant babies need not be suckling infants or Shirley Temple “ickle durls” (181). Fitzgerald displays a bitter merger of the ideas of the Warren fathers, infantile immaturity, the New Woman, and combat in the scene in which Baby Warren defeats the American consul and bullies him into putting on his hat and going forth to get Dick out of the Roman jail—because “We’re people of considerable standing in America” (240).

The mention of his hat alarmed the Consul who began to clean his spectacles hurriedly and to ruffle his papers. This proved of no avail: the American Woman, aroused, stood over him; the clean-sweeping irrational temper that had broken the moral back of a race and made a nursery out of a continent, was too much for him. He rang for the vice-consul—Baby had won. (240)

But America is not alone in the Western world’s legacy of chaos from the Warren fathers. With a sentimentality full of movie-screen cliches (256), Devereux “was gracefully weakening and sinking” (255) in a luxurious suite in the Hotel des Trois Mondes, a name that suggests both internationalism and the sexual demi-monde. His suite is “the same size as that of… [the European father] Senor Pardo Ciudad Real” (255). “Warren… [had been] a strikingly handsome man… a fine American type in every way, tall, broad, well-made… and he had that special air about him of having known the best of this world” (132). Ciudad Real was “a handsome iron-gray Spaniard [from Chile], noble of carriage, with all the appurtenances of wealth and power”(251). They are twin citizens of the same world and they have both made a mess of their children’s lives. The Spaniard repeatedly had tried to whip his son, Francisco, “the Queen of Chile” (252), out of homosexuality. The father’s brutality, money, doses of Spanish Fly, and forced trips to whorehouses only sank his irreclaimable son more deeply into the sexual demi-monde—Senor Pardo Ciudad Real also has a daddy’s “girl.” Internationally the “new” children assume their freedom within the corrupt legacy their parents have left, and Baby rules the scene.

As for the truly good American fathers and guardians, with their legacy of “‘good instincts,’ honor, courtesy, and courage,” they die: “Good-by, my father—good-by, all my fathers,” says Dick at his father’s grave (213). But the corrupting American fathers live on: instead of dying as he was supposed to, Devereux Warren “picked up his bed and walked” (258). The legacy of the great, pioneering, creative European fathers is now the monumental, centuries-old mausoleum of an enormous cultural heritage, depressingly seen from the window of Franz’s study (139). What was a magnificent legacy is now a weighty dead hand of authority. So a European good-by to all those fathers. (The novel is a litany of goodbyes: to the good fathers, to all that was fresh, like Gstaad, or responsibly disciplined, like Mrs. Speers.) But like Devereux Warren the international fathers continue their destructive way in the world: the Australian father of Von Cohn Morris is nastily one with the Warrens and Pardo Ciudad Real. What remains onstage with the inheritors at the end as “a ghost of the past” (253-4) is the homosexual, Royal Dumphrey. So too the McKiscos endure and triumph (214), as does Mrs. Abrams (291).

Gatsby died—he lived with the terrifying probability of complete disillusion only for that one brief, final afternoon of his life. He did not have to live on after learning “what a grotesque thing” existence seemed to be once he had discovered what cheats the objects of his unattainably transcendent dream had been and what a fool he had been for “living too long with a single dream.”14 “Lucky Dick” Diver, another American believer in transcendent possibility, who also had a “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” (GG, 6) fleshes out in pain what Gatsby would have had to bear had he had to linger on, as Dick did, moving from one small nothing town to a smaller one. Tender is the Night is Fitzgerald’s continuation of his moral history of his age, completing the international story where The Great Gatsby left off.

In Tender is the Night Fitzgerald was writing out of his own mature power and experience, knowing yearningly that there never was an American Eden, knowing sadly that the corrupting actualities of human life had always betrayed what Nick Carraway had called that “last and greatest of all human dreams” (GG, 143), knowing darkly that America will be America only as long as it understands that dream, knowing hauntingly that it is no less than an impossible dream of the fulfillment of the best and most creative human aspiration in a world whose idealizations thereby become real. But Fitzgerald’s generative paradox is that impossible as is its attainment, without the constant reinvigoration of that dream, America is lost, along with the promise of its youth, “somewhere back in that vast obscurity… where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night” (GG, 144). Or “almost certainly,” as Nicole dismissively surmises about Dick’s whereabouts, somewhere “in a very small town… almost certainly in that section of the country in one town or another” (TITN, 321). The materials of all of Fitzgerald’s major fictions are dreams, love, money, and marriage. In Tender is the Night they are complicated by incest and madness and hugely enlarged by an international setting. But madness and incest are not what the novel is about. It is about a world in transition, when established values crumble, when human society’s ideas of goodness, stability, and moral purpose are lost in corruption, and when the emerging society has not yet discovered a reason or a way to regain them. Tender is the Night is about the moral chaos attendant upon violent, if inevitable, change in the Western world in the twentieth century—and perhaps in all human worlds in all places and times. The tale of a dying fall is told in the story of one good man ruined in that process of change and, in his way, representative of it, in all its sad and tremendous history.


1 To H. L. Mencken, May 4, 1925; in Andrew Turnbull, ed., The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald, 480.

2 For an overview of critical responses to Fitzgerald’s work, see Jackson Bryer, Critical Reputation of F. Scott Fitzgerald; his Supplement to The Critical Reputation; and his F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Critical Reception.

3 In his “General Plan” for the novel, Fitzgerald made clear that he was creating a talented hero with the highest calling, destroyed by a combination of his own idealistic character and the destructive world around him. “The novel should do this: 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.” An easily available source of the “General Plan” is Appendix B in Arthur Mizener’s The Far Side of Paradise.

4 For an overview and discussion of critical responses to Tender is the Night see Bryer, cited above. See also Milton R. Stern, “Introduction” to Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night,” ed. M. R. Stern; and Stern, “Tender is the Night”: The Broken Universe, esp. chapter two.

5 F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night, ed. Matthew Bruccoli, 7. Until Cambridge University Press completes its definitive edition of Fitzgerald’s works, there is no universally received edition of Tender is the Night. But Bruccoli’s edition is dependable and was the best of any at the close of the twentieth century. All further references to this text will be indicated by parentheses in the body of the chapter.

6 On the front endpaper of the copy of Tender is the Night that Fitzgerald was rearranging for his eighteenth draft he had written, “This is the final version of the book as I would like it” (italics his).

7 The standard study of the composition of the first edition is by Matthew Bruccoli, The Composition of “Tender Is the Night”. See also Bruccoli, “Material for a Centenary Edition of Tender Is the Night,” in Critical Essays, ed. Stern; and Bruccoli (with Judith S. Baughman), Reader’s Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night”. For an argument in favor of the “final version” and a summation of critical arguments about it see Stern, “Tender Is the Night: The Text Itself,” in Critical Essays, ed. Stern, 21-31. Special mention must be given to Malcolm Cowley, who first edited and published the “final version” in 1951. See his “Introduction” to Tender is the Night, in Three Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both the first edition and the “final version” require some basic emendations to correct faulty and confusing time sequences; some corrections have been made by Bruccoli in the edition used here for citation.

8 In Letters, ed. Andrew W. Turnbull, see pp. 240-1, 242, 309-10, 346, 362-3, 510 (especially), and 538. In The Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald, ed. Matthew Bruccoli and Margaret M. Duggan, 329, see the 1:29 p.m. wire to Maxwell Perkins, in which “trial off” obviously was intended to be “trail off.”

9 A very notable exception is Ronald Berman’s “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas.

10 Quoted in Dora Jane Hamblin, “What a Spectacle,” 100. See also Richard Corson, Fashions in Eyeglasses.

11 They are on the site of the first Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916, and lasted through November. Before the battle was over, more than three million French, British, and German combatants had fought over no more than a pitiful 200 square miles, at a cost of one and one quarter million casualties. The part of that small territory that included Beaumont Hamel and Thiepval was manned by the British, with the French in the rest of the area to the south. The British piece of “this land here” comprised all of about fifty square miles.

12 The time sequence is problematical. Fitzgerald gave Topsy and Lanier the ages of nine and eleven, which Bruccoli edited down to six and eight (TITN, 264). Also, Fitzgerald specified that five years elapsed between the time Rosemary left the Riviera and her return to it, but Bruccoli reduces the interval to four years (287). He does this to clear the calendar and make the book end in 1929. However, at the beginning of the book, the children’s conversation and singing suggests that they were about four and six, or three and five at the youngest, which would be in keeping with the ages Fitzgerald assigned them at the end of the book, five years after Rosemary had left the Riviera. The Divers would have had to be married about twelve years. There are several contradictory time indications in the novel. See Bruccoli’s discussions in his edition of Tender and in his Reader’s Companion.

13 See also pp. 160-1, 184, and 223.

14 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, ed. Ruth Prigozy, 128. All further references are to this edition.


AA Afternoon of An Author

ATSYM All the Sad Young Men

B&D The Beautiful and Damned

B&J The Basil and Josephine Stories

F&P Flappers and Philosophers

GG The Great Gatsby

LT The Last Tycoon

LOTLT Love of the Last Tycoon

PH The Pat Hobby Stories

TJA Tales of the Jazz Age

TITN Tender is the Night

TSOP This Side of Paradise

Apprentice Fiction The Apprentice Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Kuehl)

As Ever, Scott Fitz As Ever, Scott Fitz: Letters Between F. Scott Fitzgerald and His Literary Agent, Harold Ober 1919-1940 (ed. Bruccoli and McCabe Atkinson)

Bits Bits of Paradise

Correspondence The Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Bruccoli and Duggan)

Crack-Up The Crack-Up (ed. Wilson)

Dear Scott/Dear Max Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence (ed. Kuehl and Bryer)

Ledger F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Ledger (ed. Bruccoli)

Letters The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Turnbull)

Life in Letters  F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters (ed. Bruccoli)

Notebooks The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Bruccoli)

Price The Price Was High: The Last Uncollected Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (ed. Bruccoli)

Short Stories The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection (ed. Bruccoli)

Stories The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald


Milton R. Stern is an Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut, Storrs. He has published books on Hawthorne and Melville and has edited several volumes on American literature. His books on Fitzgerald include The Golden Moment: The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1970), Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night” (1986, editor), and “Tender Is the Night”: The Broken Universe (1994).

Published in The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald edited by Ruth Prigozy (Cambridge University Press 2002).