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Malcolm Cowley (1898—1989)


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Tender Is the Night

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Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1934. Early versions date back to 1925, and the one first published began with Rosemary's arrival in the Diver circle; but in the last two years of his life Fitzgerald reorganized the story into chronological order in a version first issued, with Malcolm Cowley's commentary, in 1948.

Dick Diver, a young American psychiatrist completing his training in Zurich at the end of World War I, becomes interested in the case of Nicole Warren, a beautiful American girl with acute schizophrenia resulting from an incestuous relation with her father. As she recovers, she falls in love with Dick and comes to rely on him for stability and identity in what is for her a new and uncertain world. He returns her love, but also allows himself to acknowledge, if not to accept, a suggestion from her wealthy family, represented by her sister Baby, that he remain with her in order to care for her. Thus, in their marriage, the psychiatrist is involved, and to a degree confused, with the lover and the companion, and “her problem was one they had together for good now.” Dick ceases “temporarily” to practice, though continuing to work on a new book. They have two children, and settle into a life of leisure on the Riviera with a circle of friends including Abe North, an alcoholic composer, and Tommy Barban, a French soldier of fortune in love with Nicole. Dick's effortless charm, which lets people feel at ease, makes him an ideal host, but although he is loved and admired, he is spending emotional resources which are not being replenished. Rosemary Hoyt, a naïve American movie actress who joins the group, falls in love with Dick and, attending a party at the Divers' villa, sees their life as magnificent, tasteful, and free, but she is “unaware of its complexity and lack of innocence.” Out of touch with his work, his marriage and his very love for Nicole increasingly defined in terms of her illness, Dick becomes infatuated with Rosemary. He begins to drink more; his easy confidence begins to wear thin; and though in moments of crisis and relapse Nicole appeals to him, both her confidence in him and her dependence on him are gradually undermined. The same “transference” that partially drew her to him at the outset now draws his psychological strength toward her. Abe, long recognized by Dick as a hopeless case, fails in an effort to go back to America and to work, and is beaten to death in a Paris bar. Dick himself is involved in a brawl in Rome, and Baby, who extricates him, thus gains a “moral superiority” as well as a financial one over him. He is without illusions, having “managed to keep alive the low painful fire of intelligence,” but he has lost himself through the intricacies of his relation to Nicole and his habitual desire to please her. Tommy, who loves Nicole but does not try to understand her, becomes her lover, and after they confront Dick for a divorce, he returns to America to sink into final obscurity.


Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896—1940) American novelist