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

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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”

My Top 15 Angela Carter Quotes

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To say I am obsessed with Angela Carter (her writing, of course) would be just a slight understatement. She had an ability to access a depth of the imagination I believe few can ever fathom reaching. The way in which she bravely and confidently entered political debate through a magic realist perspective, for me, secured her a place in the list of the most important English writers of the post-war period.

“The bed is now as public as the dinner table and governed by the same rules of formal confrontation.” – Angela Carter

“The notion of a universality of human experience is a confidence trick and the notion of a universality of female experience is a clever confidence trick.” – Angela Carter

“If Miss means respectably unmarried, and Mrs. respectably married, then Ms. means nudge, nudge, wink, wink.” – Angela Carter

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” – Angela Carter

“We do not go to bed in single pairs; even if we choose not to refer to them, we still drag there with us the cultural impedimenta of our social class, our parents lives, our bank balances, our sexual and emotional expectations, our whole biographies / all the bits and pieces of our unique existences.” – Angela Carter

“Pornography is a satire on human pretensions.” – Angela Carter, the Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography

“There is a striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of a torturer.” – Angela Carter

“Your green eye is a reducing chamber. If I look into it long enough, I wil become as small as my own reflection, I will diminish to a point and vanish. I will be drawn down into that black whirlpool and be consumed by you. I shall become so small you can keep me in one of your osier cages and mock my loss of liberty.” ― Angela Carter, The Erl-King

“I speak as if he had no secrets from me. Well, then, you must know I was suffering from love and I knew him as intimately as I knew my own image in a mirror. In other words, I knew him only in relation to myself.” ― Angela Carter, Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories

“When I’d first loved him, I wanted to take him apart, as a child dismembers a clockwork toy, to comprehend the inscrutable mechanics of its interior.” – Angela Carter

“I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I’d never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before, the sheer carnal avarice of it; and it was strangely magnified by the monocle lodged in his left eye. When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.” ― Angela Carter, Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories

“Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation” – Angela Carter

She was like a piano in a country where everyone has had their hands cut off.” – Angela Carter

“All artists, they say, are a little mad. This madness is, to a certain extent, a self-created myth designed to keep the generality away from the phenomenally close-knit creative community. Yet, in the world of the artists, the consciously eccentric are always respectful and admiring if those who have the courage to be genuinely a little mad.”
― Angela Carter, Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories

…and best of all

“I would really like to have had the guts and the energy and so on to be able to write about, you know, people having battles with the DHSS. But I haven’t. They’re dull things. I mean, I’m an arty person. OK, I write overblown, purple, self-indulgent prose. So f**king what?” – Angela Carter

Image Cited From http://www.theguardian.co.uk