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Old 02-27-2012, 09:00 PM   #16
victauria
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[QUOTE=WT Sharpe;1980261]If anyone in the book deserved a happy ending, it was Nicole. She seemed to undergo a maturation process that went hand in hand with the progress in her mental stability. I don't know that there were any real villains, but Dick Diver's character was surely the most tragic. While Nicole overcame a lot of adversity and grew stronger in the process, Dick nearly totally disintegrated and became much smaller and petty by the book's end/QUOTE]

I agree that Dick's end was the most tragic. For me, it is because he gave the most and ended by losing everything. He had the most to offer the world at large, but spent it all in the service of one person. It seemed to me that he truly loved her, and maybe most of the time counted his sacrifice well spent. His dissolution at the end surely had some aspects of recognizing that all dreams and possibilities had been squandered, no more chances, and just maybe the trade wasn't enough.
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Old 02-28-2012, 12:12 AM   #17
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I don't know - I'm not as sympathetic towards Dick. To me his part is not tragic, but a tragedy in Shakespearian terms.

I believe his own flaws and weaknesses were always destined to bring him down and that it was only a matter of time before Nicole realised she was leaning on the wrong person for her mental health.

I think his flaws were not his compassion and love, but his overwhelming need to be admired and loved. Additionally, I think Nicole's mental illness sustained him somewhat. So it made sense that when Nicole started to grow - he started to shrink.
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Old 02-28-2012, 02:32 AM   #18
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I agree, caleb72, and think you summed things up pretty well. I felt there was some character flaw in Dick Diver's character that led to his fall, and I think you hit the nail on the head. While I was initially more sympathetic to the character in the early parts of the book, it became clear by the latter part of the novel that he was very much dependent upon his need to be seen as a savior; his motivations were much more self-serving than he pretended, both to himself and to others. And, yes, as Nicole began to realize this, his importance in her life and his stature in his own eyes began to fade.

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....."Listen to me—this business about a girl is a delusion, do you understand that word?"
....."It’s always a delusion when I see what you don’t want me to see."
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Old 02-28-2012, 05:02 AM   #19
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And again:

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.....The Divers went out on the beach with her white suit and his white trunks very white against the color of their bodies. Nicole saw Dick peer about for the children among the confused shapes and shadows of many umbrellas, and as his mind temporarily left her, ceasing to grip her, she looked at him with detachment, and decided that he was seeking his children, not protectively but for protection.
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Old 02-28-2012, 05:48 AM   #20
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Wow...this is just so fascinating because I have much harder feelings toward Nicole! I do not see her as growing in strength or character or ability by the end of the book. I feel she merely transferred her dependence and need for a protector to someone who seemed the epitome of strength at the time--and away from someone who was no longer serving her well. Had she truly come fully into her own as an individual, she would have been able to stand on her own and BE Nicole instead of Nicole+1.

And if she were a fully restored and reintegrated person, I have to wonder about her jumping ship like rat fleeing a downed vessel. She was married to Dick for ages, had two children with him, and was as stable as she was due to the practice of his art, the strength of his personality, and the bedrock of his love for her. Where's the love and the assist for Dick when he clearly desperately needed it?

I wonder what would have happened if the latest Knight in Shining Armor hadn't shown up...what would Nicole have done? That isn't the story we are given, of course, but I think it was only a matter of time until someone/anyone who adored her enough and seemed worldly wise and strong enough came along to latch on to.

Guess I don't like her very much!!
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Old 02-28-2012, 11:40 AM   #21
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True Confessions

It's 'fess up time. I have come to like this selection. A lot.

It's true that I found the first third a pure struggle and a seeming exercise in futility, but by the end of the second third I had come to accept that had its moments, and that the author was not without his merits. After finishing the novel, a transformation began in my estimation of the novel's worth, hastened largely by the fact that things the characters said and did kept swimming up to the forefront of my consciousness. I bought an audiobook version and re-"read" it, this time with my ears, and discovered a hundred nuances that I missed upon first reading. This work for me has that remarkable quality of being able to creep up on the mind and demand to be heard. It's got "stick-to-itness".

Thank you, issybird, for that nomination, and thank you caleb72 and hpulley for seconding and thirding that selection. And, of course, thanks to all who voted for Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Well done!
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Old 02-29-2012, 12:45 AM   #22
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I'm glad you liked it. It was my first foray into F. Scott Fitzgerald and I was very impressed with the language.

I don't know if he'll ever be a "go to" author for me as I struggled a bit here and there, but I loved the subject matter he was covering in this book and I feel educated by the comments in this thread, particularly issybird's contribution regarding the funicular. It's use as a literary device was unfortunately lost on me on first reading. Once educated, I thought it was a wonderful working model of Dick's and Nicole's relationship.

Do you think - had Rosemary not entered the picture - whether Dick and Nicole would have lived in their illusion of happiness forever? Or do you think time would always bring them undone if not by Rosemary than by someone or something else?
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Old 02-29-2012, 08:32 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caleb72 View Post
...Do you think - had Rosemary not entered the picture - whether Dick and Nicole would have lived in their illusion of happiness forever? Or do you think time would always bring them undone if not by Rosemary than by someone or something else?
I don't think Rosemary had that much influence on the outcome of their marriage; IMO it was headed for disaster from the beginning. I think what the episode with Rosemary showed was Dick's need to be seen as a protector. When they met, she was young, and unsure of herself. By the time they consummated their affair years later, she had matured and had grown in confidence and self-assurance. Interestingly, as she grew stronger, Dick lost interest.

I also wonder if his interest in the youthful Rosemary and the young Nicole might indicate that Dick secretly struggled against the same impulses that Nicole's father had succumbed to years before that brought secret shame to him and led to psychological scars for Nicole. Consider these statements by the two men:

A broken sarcasm came into his voice. “People used to say what a wonderful father and daughter we were—they used to wipe their eyes. We were just like lovers—and then all at once we were lovers—and ten minutes after it happened I could have shot myself—except I guess I’m such a Goddamned degenerate I didn’t have the nerve to do it.”

They were not let off breaches of good conduct—“Either one learns politeness at home,” Dick said, “or the world teaches it to you with a whip and you may get hurt in the process. What do I care whether Topsy ‘adores’ me or not? I’m not bringing her up to be my wife.”
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Old 02-29-2012, 11:03 AM   #24
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I agree that their marriage would not have been a good one, with or without Rosemary. In my opinion their marriage never was a good one. At least it would not have been good or healthy for Nicole. For Dicky? Maybe. At least he might have been able to kid himself to thinking so.
I totally agree with Caleb's view of Dick. Or rather, my view of him is much harsher than that even, and had he not been a fictional character I would have been upset and disgusted over who/what/how he was.
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Old 03-01-2012, 10:49 AM   #25
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Some weeks later, I'm turning this book over in my mind. I found such depth and nuance to it that it's still rewarding thought. Tom, that was lovely. I'm so glad you liked it. And for caleb, you might want to give The Great Gatsby a try. It's Fitzgerald's greatest novel and while I don't think it has the depth of Tender, it also doesn't have its flaws.

I'm still sympathetic to Dick. I think he can be seen as a Gatsby-type figure, one who flew too high and tumbled to earth. He transcended his upstate New York roots (and his losing Confederate ancestry). He worked hard, but he also got lucky, as we know from his being tapped for Bones and his "few ideas" that turned into a seminal text. Just the same, I think his life would have turned out as he planned, if not for his fatal meeting with Nicole on the funicular after he had done the right thing and walked away. Nicole sucked him dry. His struggles to maintain his integrity (buying his own shirts and re-wearing them!) were futile. I think his kindliness really was that, and one reason he was a good clinician.

In fairness to Nicole, their relationship was one of kill or be killed. Transference is one thing, but how do you manage being married to someone who is still managing your mental health? She could either look up to Dick or look down on him, but they met on the same plane only fleetingly (that funicular again, where we see the conductors having a brief interchange). I think Fitzgerald explicitly tells us that Tommy is her equal, when he describes the operation on his skull which leaves him vulnerable to a chance accident.

What I'm still struggling with is the theme of race. I think this is one of the flaws of the book; the theme is there but ultimately I don't know what Fitzgerald meant by it, which of course might be my own limitations. From the very first, we see that contrast on the beach between the tan skins of the Diver coterie and the pasty skins of the arrivistes. Then there's Jules Peterson, who sells shoe polish to Nordics! And whose death and Dick's reaction to it serves to highlight how Dick has lost his moral compass and is on his downward trajectory. Tommy is described as being so tan as to be Negroid. Finally, Mary North's marriage to someone of intermediate race and the excruciating scene where the Divers are fearful that somehow their son has been tainted by using the same bathwater of her stepson, as if race could rub off (the skin disease being only an excuse). And the daughter named Topsy!

Honestly, though, I have no idea what Fitzgerald was trying to achieve with all of this. Any insight would be appreciated.

I will reread this. I regret that I didn't take more notes of my favorite turns of phrase, but there were so many I felt as if it would be like the freshman who highlights almost everything on the page.
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Old 03-01-2012, 11:49 AM   #26
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I didn't see the skin disease being only an excuse in the bathwater debacle, but I could be wrong. Dick most certainly did have a lot of racial hatred in him, as seen by his frequent spewing of racial epithets when he got angry, and even some of his aside comments when he was more in control. Thankfully, Nicole didn't seem to share this unpleasant side of his character, and seem to recoil from these episodes.
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Old 03-01-2012, 02:31 PM   #27
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Oh, I don't think the skin disease was an excuse; I think they were really afraid of it. But I also think it was covering up for deeper racism.

And of course Dick had southern roots at a time when the effects of the Civil War were still felt. On the other hand, it was Abe North (which is not a subtle name) who was responsible for the incarceration of one black man and the death of another, over a bar bill. Again, I really don't know what Fitzgerald was trying to say with all this.
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Old 03-02-2012, 07:26 PM   #28
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I glossed on the racial aspects and tended to treat them as incidental. When things like that appear in books meant for a certain period I just take that as a history lesson on the side rather than a message or theme. I suppose that the author is reflecting the attitudes of the time for us - in this case with some honesty I imagine.

I could be wrong of course. Based on your post issybird, I did some searching on the internet and came up with the following article on F Scott Fitzgerald and race. It's a bit brief, but it seems to suggest that there might have been a transition for the author in his views on race over the course of his works. In his early works, scorn was directed at different races from his pen, but in later novels the scorn is directed to racist characters instead. Or at least that's what I think the article is saying:

http://webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/1575
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Old 03-04-2012, 02:55 PM   #29
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I finally finished it. As mentioned by others it was tough slogging at points but I was really glad I persevered as I quite enjoyed it in the end.

I don't think you can ignore the racism though we have to keep it in the appropriate historical context. There is also the foreign police organizations with the Italians beating him badly and the French accepting bribes.

Alcoholism is another interesting topic with a historical context, written around the time of prohibition and its repeal.

Dick knew his divorce was coming and expected it from the start as the marriage had little purpose once she was cured. And he could never be the provider, almost nothing he did could be good enough for the social circles he aspired to. While it lasted, Nicole's mlney helped but it was never something he could be proud of. Social strata is another theme but Nicole was mostly a patient for him.

Quote:
“You’ve got too much money,” he said impatiently. “That’s the crux of the matter. Dick can’t beat that.”
Quote:
Dick waited until she was out of sight. Then he leaned his head forward on the parapet. The case was closed. Doctor Diver was at liberty.
Quote:
So it had happened-and with a minimum of drama; Nicole felt outguessed, realizing that from the episode of the camphor-rub, Dick had anticipated everything.
The ending isn't all bad news for Dick though his shrinkage apparently continues.

Quote:
...Galena; his latest note was post-marked from Hornell, New York, which is some distance from Geneva and a very small town; in any case he is almost certainly in that section of the country, in one town or another.
Also like others I wouldn't call it a romance. Dramatic tragedy perhaps.

Interesting language for the time and some very funny stuff too.

Quote:
Oh, say can you see the tender color of remembered flesh?-while at the stern of the battleship arose in rivalry the Star-Spangled Banner.
Quote:
“I never did go in for making love to dry loins,” said Dick.

Last edited by hpulley; 03-04-2012 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 03-04-2012, 03:34 PM   #30
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Does Jewess mean what I think it does? "The woman who had recognized her was not a Jewess, despite her name. "

Of course there is a ton of male female conflict to go with the racial and class conflict.

Quote:
“All this taming of women!” he scoffed.
“In any society there are certain-” She felt Dick’s ghost prompting at her elbow but she subsided at Tommy’s overtone:
“I’ve brutalized many men into shape but I wouldn’t take a chance on half the number of women. Especially this ‘kind’ bullying-
I can't find the quote from Rosemary's mother where she says because Rosemary is an actress and can make money she is like a boy and can have sex whenever she likes.
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