A violent climax is lacking in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. After rereading Gatsby this past winter, I had come to expect a larger horror show to cap his long anticipated follow-up novel. Instead I explored the burden of witnessing a relationship between imperfect people dissolve. The Divers stand in as Tom/Daisy Buchanan type figures, but stir something similar to empathy as the conditions of routine take hold of their unhappy lives, and place them as the central figures of emphasis. Fitzgerald’s prose illuminates a complicated tale of privileged people, contaminated by their own entitlement and spite for one another. The use of language would deliver violent intent, as Dick’s resentment is conveyed, “As an indifference cherished, or left to atrophy,” which enables his desire to, “become empty of Nicole, serving her against his will with negations and emotional neglect” (168). Taking a psychiatric patient as his wife, Dick burdens himself with Nicole’s status as patient, and they both suffer for it. It has Fitzgerald and Zelda’s personal complications written all over it.
Fitzgerald reflected upon himself to a greater extent for this novel than he had for his previous work. The use of alcoholism as Dick’s self-destructive tendency makes a nod to his own lifestyle. Fitzgerald is self aware of the complications of having not published novels with the consistency a mainstream artist demanded, as he projects the notion of such onto a thinly veiled artist of another medium, “he was a musician who after a brilliant and precocious start had composed nothing for seven years” (34)(eight years between 1925-Gatsby and 1933-Tender). Yet in A Life in Letters, Fitzgerald admits he’d rather take his time to create a quality work of literature than pump out some mediocre and yearly scheduled product novel. The end result is something wonderful, and dense, and complicated.
One thought on “Tender is the Thinly Veiled Confession”
Fitzgerald’s books are commentaries on the times and morals and standards of the elite of his day. They are bleak and filled with a growing hopelessness. All of his main characters are bent on self-destruction and his principle characters are hard to like, and create no sympathy.