Main Theme Of “Tender Is The Night” By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Identity is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the characteristics which determine who or a thing is” The identity of a person can be defined by their sexuality or age, as well as political beliefs, religious views, or other factors that define them. F. Scott Fitzgerald depicts Dick Diver as a character who is constantly dealing with identity throughout his life. Diver changes his original plan for the novel in an attempt to regain his identity. Dick Diver has a tendency to self-destruct. He is a social climber who has a tendency to self-destruct. Diver’s quest to find sanity, however, leads him on a journey of alcoholism. Incest and a lack in self-knowledge.

Dick Diver is defined by his decisions in Tender is the Night. They determine who he is and what he will become. Diver is distracted by the standards of society, his family, and himself. He struggles to stay true. Diver made a number of bad decisions which led to the current state of his life. Diver makes important decisions, such as choosing a major in college and marrying the woman he chooses. Diver has to make decisions that will affect their entire life. They should not be made lightly. The decisions that Diver makes can bring him happiness or pain. The consequences are obvious. Not choosing your career or marrying someone just because they have money is not a wise choice. Diver’s life would have been very different if he hadn’t made irrational and rash decisions. Dick Diver is under pressure to succeed and to conform to society’s expectations. Scott Fitzgerald shows this. Diver gets into trouble because he believes that one’s social image is determined by the status of their ancestors and themselves. He begins to base his decisions on the opinions and reactions of others. This will only satisfy Diver for a short time and leave him empty. Diver is not happy, but he wastes time and money on extravagant parties. Dick discovers later in life that social status and material possessions do not make you happy. The greatest American allusion was “the awareness of myth of the self made man …. It was impossible to ignore the truth underlying the myth (Pitcher). Diver accepts this unrealistic notion of American Dream that emphasizes wealth, perfection, and success. This belief has caused Dick to lose his American Dream when he realizes that he’s not rich (Florida Atlantic University). It’s an illusion. The Divers are the perfect American Dream. They are attractive, have money and seem happy. The American Dream, however, is a myth. As the novel progresses, readers will see that the Divers’ lives are not perfect. Dick’s initial identity is clouded because of the influence of society on his mind. Diver initially believes that the artificial life he has created is who he is. But we soon learn that Dick Diver doesn’t know himself and is lost without money or material things. Diver discovers that opinions from others do not affect a person’s identity.

Diver’s presumptions about his family also change who he is and set standards that he feels obligated by. Diver’s father is the main source of inspiration for his search for identity. Dick’s dad is the embodiment of everything Dick aspires to be. He is described as being “beyond all doubts” (Fitzgerald 204). Diver’s dad is confident and powerful, just like Diver. Dick Diver was also an honest and virtuous man. Dick Diver could improve on these characteristics. Dick mimics his father but spends most of his time pretending he’s someone else. Diver’s constant attempts to imitate his father’s traits and actions furthers Dick’s lack of identity. Dick’s identity will only be found when he embraces his own personality.

Dick Diver is under even greater pressure to be a good person after his father’s death (Stern). This only makes his bad habits worse. Dick’s addiction to alcohol leads to violence, destruction and violence. Dick Diver’s death changes everything for him. Diver has lost all senses of identity, as he does not behave like a parent to Rosemary nor Nicole. Diver knows that his fate is out of his hands and says, “Good-bye to all Fathers” (Fitzgerald 244). He is completely devoid of any hope. Dick Diver also loses his chance to succeed and does nothing right. He is unable to properly treat his patients, maintain healthy relationships, or lead a virtuous lifestyle. Dick has lost all sense of himself and is unable to achieve “as much as he wanted to” (Fitzgerald 204).

Dick Diver acts like a father in all his relationships, because he has no control over his own life. Diver is a control freak, and he enjoys it because it makes him feel powerful and respected. “Diver undergoes a process of self-dissipation throughout the novel: from a state of initial “all completeness” to an intermediary one in which we are told that “he still had pieces of his own most personal self for everyone”(Fitzgerald, 139) and finally to a total exhaustion, which is a form of inertness”(Stamatescu). This is because younger women have been conditioned to accept being ruled by parents and adults. These women might also be younger and less experienced. They may believe Diver is acting in his own best interest by controlling a relationship. Diver feels more valuable and important when he holds this power. This is because Diver fills in the vulnerability he felt by taking care of others. It’s unhealthy for Diver and leads to him losing his identity when the relationships fail.

Dick Diver is attracted to younger women, because they are freer and don’t have any responsibilities. Diver’s attraction towards Rosemary is explained by this. Diver describes Rosemary as “her body hung delicately between childhood and adulthood–she was barely eighteen years old, almost finished, but there was dew on her.” Diver’s description of Rosemary is a little disturbing, but he is attracted to her youthful qualities. Also, he notes that there was still dew on her skin at that time, indicating her innocence. Diver compares Rosemary and his daughter Topsy. Diver says that Topsy is “nine years old and has a very fair complexion and a beautiful body like Nicole…Dick worried about this” (Fitzgerald 255). Diver’s behavior is extreme and out of place. He even feels attracted towards his own child. Dick Diver has relationships with girls his age like Rosemary. He wishes he was given the same opportunity as they are. The future of young people is in their hands, unlike Diver whose was predetermined by his marriage to Nicole. Diver can witness the younger generation grow and flourish by surrounding them with like-minded people. Diver feels young and free. Diver is also distracted from discovering his true self because he has a false identity. Dick Diver can never be young and must accept that his age is what he is.

Dick Diver’s relationship with Nicole tainted his self-image. Nicole’s schizophrenia made the arranged wedding a good way to gain attention. Nicole’s incestuous childhood and lackluster confidence made her almost totally dependent on Dick Diver, her husband. He reminded Nicole of his own father. Dick Diver, Nicole’s doctor and husband became her father figure. This relationship is stable because of Nicole’s weaknesses and Dick’s sense of importance (Galioto). Dick and Nicole were once very close. This was evident when Dick “left a letter for Maria Wallis, signed “Dicole,” which is the word he used to sign communications with Nicole in their first days of romance” (Fitzgerald 113). The Divers became so dependent on one another that they began to use their own names as if it were one. As the years went by, their marriage grew more and more strained. Dick began to dislike the relationship and Nicole’s inability for him to control her reflected Dick’s own inability to manage his life. The relationship began to deteriorate once Nicole became more confident and independent without Dick.

Dick did not expect Nicole to leave. He felt trapped. Dick did not like their relationship but it was hard for him to realize that Nicole was no longer interested in him and she was also not dependent on him. Diver’s inability to control Nicole, reflected his own lack control. Dick Diver was desperate to have some control in his life, so he tried to save his marriage. Dick Diver’s desperate desire for power was satisfied when Nicole chose to marry Tommy Barban.

The divorce of the Divers changed both Dick’s and Nicole’s identities. Dick lost his identity through their separation, while Nicole discovered hers. Dick lost the idea that he had any importance to anyone and was a father or hero. Dick is depressed and Nicole even tells Dick that he has failed. Nicole was able to find her identity when she separated from Dick. Nicole found her identity through this separation. She felt valued, independent and self-sufficient. Nicole felt like “everything had an overtone” of a different meaning. This would be determined by Dick. Nicole can be herself now that she isn’t relying on Dick. Nicole will be able to live life free of Dick Diver’s constraints now that she is no longer dependent on him. She can have the relationship that is healthy for her.

Dick Diver has a new worldview after he rejects the belief that destiny is inevitability. Diver’s outcome was by no means what he had anticipated. Dick Diver was able to feel powerful because of the status he held in his family, and because he was important to women with weak relationships. But Diver still couldn’t control his destiny. Diver tried to change his fate in order to avoid surprises and unhappiness. Diver was unable to let go of the idea that you cannot control your entire future. Each choice, every action, every feeling, and each decision are inevitable. Dick begins to experience a change in his life, making it increasingly difficult to hold onto his past. He starts to feel like he no longer has an identity. Dick’s self-destruction will not stop until he learns to let go of his control. When he finally realizes it, it’s too late.

Dick Diver’s attempt to change his fate was bound to ruin the reputation he built and to destroy his social perfection. Diver’s attempt to become an ideal member of the society leads him to ruin his career, marriage, friends, and ultimately his identity. Diver destroys all that is valuable to him, including his marriage and friendships. He also loses his sense pride in himself. Diver is punished in many ways and misses out on the opportunity to become the man of virtue and respect he had hoped to be. Diver’s perfection is ruined when the world realizes who he really is. Diver has no identity and his public failure makes him someone else. Diver’s confusion in life leads to a muddled identity. Diver has completely lost his senses of self.

Alcohol distracts Dick Diver so that he can’t deal with his own identity. Diver drinks a lot of alcohol in order to blend into society, and to dull his worries. Dick is reckless and overindulgent because of his complete hopelessness, and he wants to fit in with society. Dick becomes an alcoholic and his image in society changes completely. Diver becomes violent and pitiful. Diver becomes a drunken, uncontrollable man from an otherwise well-groomed man. He lets alcohol define his identity.

Dick Diver is struggling to find himself in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Diver’s attention is constantly diverted by obstacles both personal and collective. He is constantly trying to stay away from the society’s expectations of perfection, while dealing with divorce, affairs and alcoholicism. Fitzgerald makes identity a central theme in the novel, highlighting that losing one’s identity can lead to mental illness, as Diver demonstrated. Dick Diver, in his quest to discover himself, develops bad habits and becomes controlling and unrealistic. Diver’s character traits become an integral part of who he is.


  • camdynelliott

    Camdyn Elliott is a 35-year-old educational blogger and school teacher. She has been writing about education for nearly a decade, and her work has been featured on sites like The Huffington Post and The New York Times. Camdyn is the founder of the education blog Education Week, and she is also the author of the book "How to Teach Like a Pro: A Guide to Effective Teaching Methods for College and Career Students."

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