Tender is the Night

by: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Study Questions

1

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.

2

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.