Need for Control in Tender is the Night
Dick Diver's love for his wife, Nicole, in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, is based purely on his need to assert control and act as care taker to her due to her illness. He assumes this role in order to feel validation for his own lack of achievement in his professional life. The only true success he can be credited is Nicole's 'cure,' achieved through his devotion and care; thus he continually tries to replicate this previous success in his relationships to other young girls. He looks to be a source of caring and stability just as he had been for Nicole, relying on him for caring and protection from her illness.
The growth of Dick and Nicole's relationship is shown through letters written by Nicole. Although there are none of Dick's replies to refer to we see the change in Nicole from incoherent babble to normal correspondence. Dr. Gregory thus attributes the case to Dick as a success, "When the change began, delicacy prevented me from opening any more. Really it had become your case"(136). Nicole comes to rely on his letters at the clinic and is apologetic when he doesn't write, fearing she has lost him; "But when Dick's answer was delayed for any reason, there was a fluttering burst of worry-like a worry of a lover: 'Perhaps I have bored you', and: 'Afraid I have presumed'(142). He is her connection outside of the clinic and she desperately needs that relationship and his approval. Nicole is repeatedly described through her smile as young and innocent, "She smiled, a moving childish smile that was like the lost youth of the world," and "whenever he turned to her she was smiling a little, her face lighting up like an angel's..."(153). The love she feels for Dick is a very young, worshipful love. "...Nicole brought everything to his feet, gifts of sacrificial ambrosia, of worshipping myrtle"(156). Nick is very much aware of her immaturity and yet enjoys it: "He was enough older than Nicole to take pleasure in her youthful vanities and delight"(156). Although he does not take advantage of her state he, in the end, find himself drawn to her youngness and devotion and takes the role of the caregiver, "Still she would have married some one of my type, someone she thought she could rely on -indefinitely"(240).
Dick and Nicole's relationship seems untainted by her illness at the outset of the story. It is not until after Rosemary establishes herself in their life and the occurrence in the bathroom that we are aware of anything unusual. Dick has lost control of Nicole and his relationship with Rosemary has already taken on a familiar sense. He is attracted to her youth, "You're the only girl I've seen for a long time that actually did look like something blooming"(29), and she responds by trying to please him in every way possible. There are innumerable conversations, in which she...