Implications Of Modernist Thought In Tender Is The Night

1103 words - 4 pages

Implications of Modernist Thought in Tender Is the Night

   The implications of modernist thought in F. Scott Fitzgeralds' Tender Is the Night, become apparent when conceptualizing crime and punishment. Besides the murder of the Negro in the Parisian hotel, the idea of crime is plastic; adultery, deceit, moral depravity barely have consequences. Actions committed with good intentions often end in despair, such as the marriage of Dick and Nicole Diver. Similarly, seduction and dissimulation are not often met with ensuing punishment. Actions, whether they be morally right or wrong, tend to remain in a staid state without the traditional response. The modernists place characters in various moments and situations that do not necessarily conclude in the set conception of "punishment."


Nicole and Dick Diver both commit "crimes" of infidelity during their marriage. While Dick's tryst with Rosemary ceases without any succinct culmination, Nicole sleeps with Tommy and ends her marriage to elope with him. Neither crime however, is met with a punishment. While Dick slowly loses his manner of attraction and wiles with women, he sinks into apathy and alcoholism. Fitzgerald does not seem to be punishing Dick in any way for his fleeting romance with Rosemary; rather, his empty life is almost an inevitability, another set of moments without weighty cause or effect. Nicole's actual instant of infidelity is described as a "moment" - not as a crime, a moral dilemma or anything deserving traditional punishment. She drifts into her affair in the same way she tends to her garden or glances at her children. Her love for Tommy Barban is simply situational; Dick was no longer fulfilling her in the manner she expected and Tommy was in the right place to take the fall. "Struggling a little still, like a decapitated animal she forgot about Dick and her new white eyes, forgot Tommy himself and sank deeper and deeper into the minutes and the moment" (294). As she embraces Tommy in the hotel, the reader receives the sense that her lover could essentially be anyone. He loses all face and name and becomes another pawn, another performer within the "moment."


Dick's reaction to Nicole's adultery is completely devoid of accusation or punishment. His response to her confession is stoic and vacant. Her news could easily be about something entirely innocuous because his response elicits no inkling of condemnation or punishment. "ŒI went dancing last night - with Tommy Barban. We went - ' He winced, interrupting her. ŒDon't tell me about it. It doesn't matter what you do, only I don't want to know anything definitely'" (299). Although he winces at her story, he still insists on hearing nothing about the circumstances and claims to be emotionally detached from the "crime." Rosemary too, although she professes to her mother to be in love with Dick Diver, maintains a grave detachment from the actual ramifications of her ...

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