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Tender is the Night

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Study Questions

Chapters 8-13

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Is Dick American?

By birth, of course, Dick is an American, but as the hero of a novel that explores the differences between American and European cultures, the question is more complicated. Dick possesses manners and sensibilities that distinguish him from Americans. We learn in the opening chapters that he and his wife structure their day like the "older civilizations." Dr. Gregory explains to his wife when she is attacking Dick, that the book he wrote was so scholarly that everybody assumed he was English. During his decline, however, Dick reverts to his American roots. He loses the scholarly reserve and great manners, which had set him apart from his compatriots, and, in his greatest moment of weakness, he retreats to what Fitzgerald considers a basic American violence. Though he thinks that he has severed himself from America in the act of burying his father, it is to America that he ultimately returns.

Did Dick's relationship with Nicole ruin his career? If it was not Nicole, what contributed to Dick's inability to become a famous psychologist?

On one level, Dick's total involvement in the health of his wife drains him of the energy to be an excellent doctor. The life of ease, which Nicole's money allows the couple, makes the working world of the physician seem meaningless. Nicole has little interest in his career, and her lack of interest is contagious. Seen in this way, Nicole did ruin Dick's career. However, one could also look at the way in which he cured Nicole as the culmination of all he had learned and set out to do as a doctor. From what he learned, and from his innate gifts, Dick is able to cure the person he cares most about in the world. In that way, his career is a complete success.

Who is the main character in the novel? Is it Dick, Nicole, both, neither?

All signs seem to point to Dick as the main character of the novel, not the least of which is the fact that Fitzgerald intended to name the book Dick Diver. Certainly, Dick's concerns and development seem to be the focal point of the work. Fitzgerald set out to write the portrait of such a man. And yet a case can be made that Nicole is the main character and that Dick is important only to the extent that he helps Nicole. As the focus of Dick's life work, she achieves an importance that Dick does not. She moves from being an enigmatic character, to an unhealthy character, and then to a healthy one. Certainly the shift to her point of view at the end of the novel lends credence to this thesis. It is she, cured, with whom we remain at the close of the book, she whose change we are left to witness. Dick mysteriously dissolves. If nothing else, the book is more about the two of them and their life together than it is about just one of them.

Fitzgerald always regretted the chronology he chose for the book and even rewrote it after publication, intending for the straightforward telling of events to be the final manuscript. Which way would the book have been more effective?

Does Dick cure Nicole?

Does Dick love Rosemary? If so, in what way? If not, why does he have an affair with her?

Does Nicole love Tommy Barban? If so, in what way? If not, why does she marry him?

To what extent is Baby Warren in control of her sister's life?

To what extent does the ending of the novel, with Dick vanishing in America, resolve problems that the novel established? Is it a good ending? If so, why? If not, why not and how could it have been better?

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TERRIBLE

by deadendjustice, December 19, 2012

Do NOT read this book it is dull and boring.. go for the outsiders!!!!!

1 Comments

6 out of 63 people found this helpful

just had to say...

by gelik, April 24, 2013

to the first reviewer: philistine

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5 out of 5 people found this helpful

Fitzgerald birth year correction

by RevMJR1015, January 14, 2014

I'm almost certain Fitzgerald was born in 1896, not '97.

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