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Decay In Tender Is The Night, By F. Scott Fitzgerald

2878 words - 12 pages

Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934, Tender is the Night is a story about human decadence and the degeneration of love and marriage due to excess. Fitzgerald wrote his symbolic novel during the 1920s, the “Jazz Age” before the great depression- the time period that clearly indicated how living excessively and recklessly has serious and destructive consequences. The novel exemplifies some of the values and vices that are still present in society today. Fitzgerald uses sensuous characterization, connotative symbolism, and vivid detail to emphasize that excess leads to downfall.
Fitzgerald creates detailed, dynamic, and believable characters in Tender is the Night such as the protagonists Dick Diver, Nicole Diver, and Rosemary Hoyt. Dick Diver is rich, charismatic, popular, and a brilliant psychiatrist, but throughout the novel, he transforms into the shadow of the man he used to be and loses everything. In book 2, which takes place before the events of book 1, renowned psychiatrist Dick Diver becomes the doctor of rich heiress Nicole Warren, who suffers from the mental disorder schizophrenia due to her father’s incestuous behavior with her during childhood. In book 1, which takes place when Dick and Nicole are married, the world of the Divers is a perfect one. Their marriage is stable, but this “flawless” life decays over time. Dick Diver’s excessive pursuit of beauty as soon as he sees the young and pretty Rosemary foreshadows the Diver’s decay of marriage. In the beginning of the novel Dick entertains people and brings them happiness by oftentimes throwing ravishing parties: “So long as they subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation” (Fitzgerald 41). Because of his handsome appearance and attractive nature, “It is an essential part of Dick Diver’s personality to feel loved and needed” (Witkoski 4). A prominent leitmotif of the work is the idea of vanity, which is “the excessive belief in one’s own abilities or attractiveness to others” (OED). Dick’s vanity comes from his wealth and lavish lifestyle, which eventually changes him and many other characters in the novel. “[Dick] had the power of arousing a fascinated and uncritical love. The reaction came when he realized the waste and extravagance involved. He sometimes looked back with awe at the carnivals of affection he had given” (Fitzgerald 41). Although this scene is early in the novel, Fitzgerald foreshadows Dick’s decline with Dick looking back on his “carnivals of affection.” Near the conclusion of the novel, Dick actually looks back at his past the same way, recounting “the waste and extravagance involved.” Dick’s downfall is due to his wealth, or rather, his wife Nicole’s wealth, unearned money; early in the novel, Dick’s integrity makes him swear to avoid using Nicole’s money, but he succumbs to a wealthy lifestyle. Dick also succumbs to the vice that is alcohol and towards the end of the novel he refers to himself as a “Black Death” that does not “seem to...

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