Will I Ever Be Able to ‘work out’ Dick Diver?

tender-is-the-night

I’m not going to deny that Tender is The Night isn’t without its flaws (compared to The Great Gatsby) it took Fitzgerald nine years to write, yet arguably it reads as though it were still in draft state. However, I actually think that such flaws are appropriate! After all, the novel is all about flaws. Initially everything seems overtly romantic, idyllic! Between the settings of the French Riviera littered with gorgeous couples with glamorous names, and the title of the novel, taken from Keats ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ an expectation for the devastatingly beautiful romance we know Fitzgerald masters is certainly put in place. Yet, below the surface of the title, and below the surface of the characters, there is darkness, secrets, infidelity, and devastating personality flaws.

Out of all the characters, Dick Diver frustrates me the most. I just cannot work out who he is, or why he behaves the way he does. However, I do know that I can’t help but have an annoying sympathy for him. It feels ridiculous to have any sympathy for Dick, he spends most of his time in the novel in an alcoholic stupor making it difficult to fully understand and engage with his character, and he is unfaithful to his wife. That said, I was still almost reduced to tears by him. I see Dick as a deeply troubled, perhaps even a reflection of Fitzgerald himself, I see him as a man who cannot bear himself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I excuse infidelity. However, I think that I only came to the conclusion that Dick has such a dark relationship with himself, because of his behavior. Rosemary Hoyt is 18, and Dick is a married man twice her age. It is interesting to analyze exactly how he reacts to her instantly falling for him. It is most interesting that initially he doesn’t entertain her advances, he’s married and she’s just a ‘naïve child’ compared to him. Yet, it really isn’t long before this changes, and before he quickly lets his ego take over. This makes me question whether his alcoholism and infidelity are ‘cries for help’ ( I suppose I like the irony of the psychiatrist who turns out to be the most mentally damaged) or whether he is in fact simply demeaning and disrespectful to women.

My interpretation of the sudden change in his course of action with Rosemary is that it is indicative of someone battling inner demons. The fact that his wife is also his mental patient makes it all so much worse. As a psychiatrist, one would expect Dick’s character to be the sanest; they may read his infidelity as being a selfish action by a selfish man. However, I still believe that Dick is possibly the most mentally troubled character in the novel. Spiraling deeper into alcoholism, he spends more and more time drunk, his prose becomes difficult to follow, his actions contradict. I suppose I also feel sympathy towards Dick because if I consider him as being ill, I can accept the way in which he can be seen to use women. Perhaps I’m deluding myself, and Fitzgerald has given us a character we are supposed to hate and that’s that. However, arguably he only married his wife because her mental illness provided him with the opportunity to write the psychiatry manual, that was his life’s most successful work. In terms of Rosemary, perhaps their affair was not purely blamable on Rosemary’s naïve behavior driven by an infatuation that blinded her morally. Perhaps Dick was using Rosemary as an ego boost, a validation of his virility? Who knows? Even so, I struggle to work out whether I despise him, or whether I feel sorry for him. Maybe I’m infatuated by him! (not that I get that emotionally invested in novels I read…).

Even if the novel has flaws, and even if the characters are flawed and they contradict. I am still in love with the novel, and its challenged. Tender is The Night certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of providing a rare and exquisite type of romance that glistens from every page. The moment whereby Rosemary instantly falls for Dick on the beach illustrates how magically Fitzgerald crafted and weaved words.

“He looked at her and for a moment she lived in the bright blue worlds of his eyes, eagerly and confidently”

Poor young Alice

An Alice in adolescence

Her breath was stolen

Her heart punched in the face

 

A gust of wind was the culprit

One effortless blow

And down went Alice

Down into the dark

 

It wouldn’t have tried its luck

If she were older

But her youth made her light

Like the piece of thread

that attaches itself to the awkward creases,

and crevices of your trouser leg

 

All it takes is one,

one aggressive brush of the hand

And it falls down into the dark

It’s on the gravel and insignificant

It’s a motion that will never qualify

for a place in your precious memory

 

Poor young Alice…

Light blonde thread in the wind

she cannot stay outside long enough to study
those beautiful lines in wise faces

For the moment they see her

she falls, and she fades

Beware of the Shooting Star

A bullet escaping a black hole rifle

A shooting star is falling

Expected to land in our home county

 

Tucked behind the opaque hour

I see you putting your boots on

You’re going to be the one to catch her?

 

Silenced by this siren

You won’t hear me

But I scream anyway

I’m like you

Running for the sake of it

 

Grass seeping up your trouser leg

You will stop and stare

Expecting to find the shooting star

Just pining for you

Just  lying there

 

You find no one but yourself

Because like the drunk in the park

The shooting star peaked only to expire

 

With the grass now exciting a deep itch

There you are

Out of reach

And a little too far

From the flickers of my fire