Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night (1934) is a modernist novel by renowned American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). It follows an American couple in 1920s France as their marriage is beset by difficulties and declines rapidly.

Below is a summary of Tender is the Night and an explanation of its setting and genre. You will also find an exploration of the novel's critical reception and a brief biography of Fitzgerald.

Content warning: contains themes of abuse and incest.

Tender is the Night, content warning, StudySmarter

Tender is the Night: summary

Tender is the Night centres around the complex life of American psychiatrist, Dick Diver, during the 1920s. Dick and his wife Nicole, the latter hailing from an extremely wealthy family, rent a villa on the French Riviera and lead a glamorous life surrounded by other Americans. Rosemary Hoyt becomes part of this group and quickly develops feelings for Dick. She is a seventeen-year-old actress staying nearby with her mother. Other members of this group include Abe North, an alcoholic and composer, Tommy Barban, an adventurer, and Albert McKisco, a literary critic, and his wife, Violet. Both Abe and Tommy are in love with Nicole.

As she falls for Dick, Rosemary propositions him multiple times but is rejected. However, Dick is secretly developing feelings for her too. Rosemary also begins to notice that there is something unusual about Dick and Nicole. Her suspicions are confirmed when Violet discovers Dick comforting Nicole during a severe mental breakdown. Because of his love for Nicole, Tommy angrily defends her and accuses Violet of lying. This leads to Tommy and Albert engaging in a duel in which both parties leave unharmed.

Dick, Nicole, and Rosemary depart for Paris. A series of violent and distressing events occur. A friend of the Divers murders a man in a train station. Then, in a case of mistaken identity, an African American man is murdered in Rosemary's hotel room. Dick helps to dispose of the body to protect Rosemary's reputation. Rosemary then witnesses Nicole enduring another severe mental breakdown, just as Violet did in the Riviera. The group then split and do not see each other again for a significant period of time.

Fitzgerald then provides readers with a flashback that explains how Dick and Nicole came to be married. Readers learn that Dick is a New York native and a successful student, attending both Yale and Oxford to achieve a degree in psychiatry. Dick joined the U.S. army when World War One broke out, but was permitted to complete his education in Zurich instead of being sent to fight. He spends time there with a friend and peer, Franz Gregorovius. Franz is treating a sixteen-year-old girl with mental health issues. This girl turns out to be Nicole.

Nicole and Dick quickly become close, corresponding while Dick spends time in France. Both Dick and Franz notice that Nicole's mental condition improves rapidly during this period. However, Franz also informs Dick that Nicole is being treated because she suffered incestuous abuse at the hands of her father when she was a child.

This causes Dick to avoid Nicole for a time. They eventually reconcile and marry, living a luxurious lifestyle together using Nicole's fortune. It is clear that Dick partly marries Nicole as he has proven helpful for her mental state. It seems that he has developed Florence-Nightingale syndrome.

Florence-Nightingale syndrome is when a doctor or one caring for another falls in love with their patient. This usually leads to an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship. The syndrome is named after the famous nurse, Florence Nightingale.

He also publishes a successful psychiatry book around this time. The couple have two children. However, Nicole's mental issues begin to reoccur after the birth of her daughter.

Fitzgerald's narrative returns to the present. Franz and Dick have opened a clinic in Switzerland with Nicole's money. Dick kisses a patient, which causes Nicole's mental state to worsen once again. Dick and Nicole's relationship also begins to disintegrate, and Dick turns to alcohol. His drinking is exacerbated by the death of his father in America. After the funeral, Dick spends time in Rome where he meets Rosemary again. She is now twenty-two. They begin an affair that soon breaks down. Dick becomes involved in a drunken brawl with Italian police and is bailed out by Nicole's elder sister, known as 'Baby'. She has never approved of Dick, and this incident damages relations between the two.

Dick's life then experiences a final decline. His drinking causes Franz to request him to cease his involvement in their clinic. He has become unpleasant to be around, and Nicole has finally realised this. Dick obsesses over the now famous Rosemary and regularly embarrasses himself in an effort to impress her. Nicole has an affair with Tommy Barban and then divorces Dick in order to marry Tommy. Dejected, Dick returns to America and becomes a small-town G.P. His mental state does not improve and he no longer sees his children. Dick is also unable to finish his next book. There seems to be little hope for him; this is where Tender is the Night ends.

Tender is the Night: setting

Tender is the Night has various settings throughout the novel. Chronologically, the novel covers the pre-war period of the early 1910s all the way to the late 1920s. Fitzgerald captures how the First World War haunted Europe for many years after it had ended. There are sporadic reminders throughout Tender is the Night of the conflict that has come before.

Geographically, the novel also moves between multiple settings. The French Riviera and Paris emphasise the glamour and luxury of the Divers' life. They live on Nicole's vast family fortune and surround themselves with other glamorous and wealthy people. However, hiding beneath this are Dick and Nicole's difficulties. Dick develops a severe reliance on alcohol and Nicole struggles with acute mental health issues. They often go a long way to hide their problems to protect their reputation. Violet's discovery of Nicole suffering an episode of distress leads to a duel between Tommy and Albert. Dick and Nicole do not stop this as they are eager to keep up their glamorous facade.

America also serves as a brief setting in Tender is the Night. This is where Dick was born and also where he returns at the end of the novel. It seems that for Dick to return to the country of his birth is somewhat of a failure. He no longer leads a glamorous European life. This may be a subtle criticism of 1920s America by Fitzgerald, as was common in his work.

Many Americans in this period used the money they made to travel to Europe, as the Divers do. This was seen as leading a successful life. However, being forced to return to America was not seen so positively. Fitzgerald is shedding light on the fact that returning to the supposed land of the American Dream was actually a step backwards, not forwards. He associates America with failure.

Tender is the Night: genre

Tender is the Night is modernist fiction.

Modernism, as a literary genre, is characterised by its break with traditional literary forms. It often engages in experimentation. Modernism began as a reaction to the First World War. The conflict made many believe that life was now fragmented and more chaotic than previously thought. Modernism explores and tries to come to terms with this chaos. Famous works of modernism include Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1899) and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922).

The topic of the First World War is very relevant in Tender is the Night as Dick Diver is part of the U.S. Army during the war. The only reason he does not fight is due to his instructions to complete his education in Zurich. There is an awareness in Tender is the Night of the scars that the war left on the continent.

Fragmentation and chaos are common themes in the novel. The plot is complex and intertwined, jumping back and forth in time. There is also much chaos within the interpersonal relationships in Tender is the Night. Dick and Nicole's courtship begins positively but abruptly stops when Dick doubts Nicole's mental state. When they do marry, Nicole's various breakdowns constantly interrupt their marriage. Dick's growing alcoholism also impacts their relationship. Both Dick and Nicole engage in affairs while they are still married. Their relationship is chaotic and fragmented from beginning to end which can be seen in the below quote said by Nicole. This is characteristic of a modernist novel.

But I was very busy being mad then, so I didn't care what he said, when I am very busy being mad I don't usually care what they say, not if I were a million girls. (Book 2, Chp 2)

Tender is the Night: book review

When Tender is the Night was published in 1934, it had been nine years since Fitzgerald had released his last novel, The Great Gatsby. This had been a significant success for Fitzgerald, cementing him as an important American literary figure.

However, Tender is the Night did not receive the same reception. Many critics gave it mediocre reviews, and some were even quite harsh. One reviewer called it a 'sinful, ginful tale', judging the novel as out of touch for portraying a decadent 1920s lifestyle. Another considered Tender is the Night not plausible, arguing that the narrative events were 'insufficient' to cause the downfall of Dick Diver.1

Tender is the Night was not a commercial triumph, selling a relatively low number of copies. This was a huge disappointment for Fitzgerald who was very proud of what he had created. Critics may have associated Fitzgerald with the Roaring Twenties, which were now long past and seen as outdated.

The Roaring Twenties refers to the 1920s in America. It was a wild period where many people felt the need to let loose after the First World War. It is characterised by partying, alcohol consumption, and breaking social norms such as chaste sexuality and strict gender roles.

Contemporary critics have since reevaluated Tender is the Night. Many see the novel as perhaps Fitzgerald's most sophisticated work and as a masterpiece of modernist literature.

Modern reviewers tend to focus on the autobiographical aspects of Tender is the Night. While the novel is fictional, it has many similarities with Fitzgerald's own life. In the late 1920s, Fitzgerald struggled with alcoholism and his wife, Zelda, suffered severe mental illness. She was hospitalised for a period while Fitzgerald was writing this novel. Like Dick and Nicole, Fitzgerald and Zelda also spent a great deal of time in Europe. It is thought that the character of Rosemary Hoyt is based on Lois Moran, a young Hollywood actress with whom Fitzgerald had an affair. Dick Diver's gradual decline is likely to have mirrored Fitzgerald's own.

Tender is the Night: author

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on 24th September 1896 in Minnesota to a businessman father and wealthy mother. However, Fitzgerald spent the majority of his childhood and adolescence in New York after his family relocated. The Fitzgerald family led a middle-class lifestyle and Fitzgerald was able to attend the prestigious Princeton University. A failed romantic relationship forced Fitzgerald out of Princeton.

During the First World War, Fitzgerald joined the U.S. army but did not serve in battle. While a soldier, he met the glamorous socialite Zelda Sayre, whom he later married.

Fitzgerald developed a love of writing and was eager to break into the world of fiction in New York City. He struggled greatly with his ambitions for many years. Financial difficulties often forced him to write advertisements to get by. After much hardship, Fitzgerald's first novel This Side of Paradise was published in 1920. It was a significant commercial success and changed Fitzgerald's life. He was now earning enough money and could devote his time to being a writer.

In 1925, Fitzgerald published what was to be his best-known book, The Great Gatsby. It accurately captured the excess and hedonism of the Roaring Twenties. By this time, he and Zelda had become celebrities for their extensive participation in this culture.

By the late 1920s, Fitzgerald's life had changed. He had lapsed into alcoholism and Zelda had to be hospitalised for her mental illness. Their marriage suffered significantly as a result. Zelda was eventually permanently institutionalised, which over which Fitzgerald felt a great amount of guilt. Fitzgerald's own health took a sharp hit because of his alcoholism. He also underwent significant financial difficulties because he was no longer as popular an author. F. Scott Fitzgerald died of heart problems due to his drinking in 1940.

Tender is the Night - Key takeaways

  • Tender is the Night is a 1934 novel by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • It follows an American couple, Dick and Nicole Diver, and their declining marriage.
  • Tender is the Night covers various time periods and is set in multiple places, including the French Riviera, Paris, and America.
  • The novel can be classified as modernist.
  • While receiving poor reviews at the time, Tender is the Night is now thought to be one of Fitzgerald's best works, with strong autobiographical elements.

Tender is the Night, content warning, StudySmarter

References

  1. Matthew J. Bruccoli, Tender is the Night and the Reviewers, Modern Fiction Studies, 1961.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tender is the Night

The meaning of Tender is the Night is how fragile and difficult human relationships can be, often suffering because of ingrained internal issues.

It is about Dick and Nicole Diver, an American couple in 1920s France, whose marriage fails because of mental health issues and alcoholism.

The message of the novel is the fragility of human relationships, especially when one is beset by mental illness.

It is considered an important novel because of its masterful use of modernist techniques.

Dick Diver is the main character of Tender is the Night.

Final Tender is the Night Quiz

Question

When was Tender is the Night published?

Show answer

Answer

1934.

Show question

Question

Who wrote Tender is the Night?

Show answer

Answer

F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Show question

Question

What genre is Tender is the Night?

Show answer

Answer

Modernism.

Show question

Question

What did modernism begin as a reaction to?

Show answer

Answer

The First World War.

Show question

Question

What settings in Tender is the Night emphasise glamour and luxury?

Show answer

Answer

The French Riviera and Paris.

Show question

Question

Returning to which country can be seen as a failure for Dick?

Show answer

Answer

America.

Show question

Question

What aspect of Tender is the Night do modern reviewers often focus on?

Show answer

Answer

The autobiographical aspect.

Show question

Question

What university did Fitzgerald attend?

Show answer

Answer

Princeton.

Show question

Question

What two common themes in the novel can be considered modernist?

Show answer

Answer

Fragmentation and chaos.

Show question

Question

Why does Tommy defend Nicole from Violet's accusations of a breakdown?

Show answer

Answer

Because he is in love with her.

Show question

Question

What was the name of Fitzgerald's first novel?

Show answer

Answer

This Side of Paradise.

Show question

Question

Where do Rosemary and Dick finally begin their affair?

Show answer

Answer

Rome.

Show question

Question

Who does Nicole marry after divorcing Dick?

Show answer

Answer

Tommy.

Show question

Question

Why does Dick not fight in the First World War?

Show answer

Answer

Because he must complete his education in Zurich.

Show question

Question

What is the name of Fitzgerald's wife?

Show answer

Answer

Zelda.

Show question

Question

Who is Rosemary Hoyt thought to have been based on?

Show answer

Answer

The actress Lois Moran.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Tender is the Night quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.