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Mutatis-Mutandis
02-14-2010, 05:37 PM
I really enjoyed reading Tender is the Night, but the main character, Dick Diver, confuses me. What confuses me is how Fitzgerald intended to make the reader feel about Dick Diver. Were we supposed to sympathie with him? Were we supposed to like him? Dislike him? Etc.

SPOILERS

Personally, I found him a very dislikable character. I found him arrogant and self-absorbed, a man who, when it came down to it, was selfish. And he's a blatant racist, which really sealed how I felt towards him. I don't know if I am supposed to just think, "he was a product of his time, everyone was a racist, it's no big deal," but I can't do that (one reason being that line of thought not being in any way tue notwithstanding). Lines like, "He's a spic," ". . . this was a Bahama Negro, conceited and unpleasant. . ." "You dirty Wops!" and by far the worst, "Look here, you mustn't get upset over this-it's only some nigger scrap." Now, I could forgive the first lines, but the last one (referring to the murdered black man who was just trying to help) is so mean and hateful.

In the end, I was glad to see his fall from grace, and quite frankly, would have liked to seen him end up worse off than he did. Dick Diver also supposedly being heavily based on Fitzgerald himself seems odd. Did Fitgerald really want to portray himself in this light? Or was he just being honest?

So, is there an intended feeling that is supposed to be felt towards Dick Diver, or is it up to interpretation (as I assume this is the case)? It seems to me Nicole is by far the character I sympathized with more.

Brad Coelho
02-14-2010, 07:09 PM
I think it was confessional (and of course he's a flawed character, w/ our subjective opinions damning him more or less based on our interpretation of his sins), but Diver was a martyr for his wife in Tender where Fitzgerald couldn't be for his wife in actuality. His sacrifices couldn't change Zelda's condition like Dick's did- which made him redeemable.

dfloyd
02-14-2010, 07:46 PM
the 20s and 30s. Most of the members of my family used the N word liberally. I am glad I got out of the southern millieu that looked down upon blacks and were disrespectful in their treatment of them. But it did happen ... and not only in southern families, but northern ones as well. If it upsets you to read about what was the norm in the 20s and 30s, perhaps you shouldn't read it. It did happen, and complaining about it 70 years after doesn't do any good. It was the norm thrn, but we have come a long way since that time.

Dick Diver was a flawed character and Scott Fitzgerald was flawed himself. Zelda was unfaithfull to him as Nicole eventually was to Dick Diver, and as Diver was to Nicole. The analogy at the end of the novel to U.S. Grant explicitely explains Diver's feelings .... being called upon to save Nicole, then dismissed back into the position of a non-entity.

No matter what your feelings are about the book, it is one of the greatest pieces of modern American literature. As for myself, I try to understand what happens in a novel as a part of the times in which it was written. I just want tounderstand, not have empathy for a fictional character.

Mutatis-Mutandis
02-14-2010, 08:19 PM
Like I said, just because most were racist in that time doesn't make it right. Please, don't patronize to me. I know it happened in northern families. I know it does still all to well, growing up and living in a pretty racist town myself. The "n-word" is not something foreign to me. I don't recall mentioning being offended, and if I portrayed myself as having my delicate sensibilities hurt, it was not the intent.

I was just commenting on the character. I really liked the book, and actually usually enjoy literature where I don't empathize with the main character, but I do read to feel with the characters, no matter what time period it is written in. To merely read to understand is, to me, an injustice to literature. You talk as if just because a character is fictional we aren't supposed to connect with that character. This is one of the most absurd assertions I've heard in quite some time.

keilj
02-15-2010, 07:17 PM
I was very sympathetic to Diver. But I suppose that is because I saw so much of Fitzgerald in the character of Diver. In fact, that is probably why Tender is the Night is my favorite Fitzgerald novel, because it seems to be his most honest and personal work

(The Last Tycoon was also, I wish he could have finished it before passing away)

Brad Coelho
02-15-2010, 08:34 PM
I agree Keilj, ironically that very fact is what Hemingway criticized about it!

keilj
02-15-2010, 08:48 PM
I agree Keilj, ironically that very fact is what Hemingway criticized about it!

Yeah Hemingway was pretty tough on Fitzgerald. Hemingway was skewed on a few things though - he claimed Dostoevsky's writing, although great, was completely unbelievable

But as far as Fitzgerald - like Sinclair Lewis said - the great writers don't really need autobiographies, because you can see who they are in the pages of the books that they wrote

Dark Lady
02-16-2010, 09:12 AM
I don't know about whether we are supposed to like Dick as a character. I quite liked the novel and thought he was a pretty nasty character. I found it interesting that Brad Coelho said he was a 'martyr for his wife' as I thought he was an absolute arse to Nicole. I did find it is interesting that it drew so heavily from Fitzgerald's own marriage when I read it. Especially since Dick is such a dislikeable character.

keilj
02-16-2010, 11:58 AM
I don't know about whether we are supposed to like Dick as a character. I quite liked the novel and thought he was a pretty nasty character. I found it interesting that Brad Coelho said he was a 'martyr for his wife' as I thought he was an absolute arse to Nicole. I did find it is interesting that it drew so heavily from Fitzgerald's own marriage when I read it. Especially since Dick is such a dislikeable character.

I guess that leads to the question of, if a writer presents a true character, complete with flaws and dark spots, should we reflexively be repelled by these characters??

I think this is an important question - becasue it has been argued that even in autobiographies, we get "the bright side" of a character, and a lot of his/her shortcomings are whitewashed.

Brad Coelho
02-16-2010, 08:16 PM
I don't know about whether we are supposed to like Dick as a character. I quite liked the novel and thought he was a pretty nasty character. I found it interesting that Brad Coelho said he was a 'martyr for his wife' as I thought he was an absolute arse to Nicole. I did find it is interesting that it drew so heavily from Fitzgerald's own marriage when I read it. Especially since Dick is such a dislikeable character.

He was a martyr in that as his character dissolved into oblivion, Nicole found new life. Fitzgerald, to me, was pouring a bit of self-loathing on paper. No matter how much pain or disease he’d attempt to extract from Zelda onto himself, he couldn’t change her condition or course of pathology. I interpreted his writings of Dick Diver’s fall to morose anonymity as a bit of a sacrifice, as if the sacrifice of that character could give Nicole, or Zelda, the strength to transcend her state.

I hardly know enough about Fitzgerald's affairs to go so far as to say he blamed himself (or was rendered impotent by his lack of ability to help his wife), but I felt a bit of self-deprecation in his creation of Dick. While he didn't actually kill Dick phyiscially, he did spiritually, and it seemed to liberate Nicole from the shackles of her syndrome.

kelby_lake
02-18-2010, 07:12 AM
I was just commenting on the character. I really liked the book, and actually usually enjoy literature where I don't empathize with the main character, but I do read to feel with the characters, no matter what time period it is written in. To merely read to understand is, to me, an injustice to literature. You talk as if just because a character is fictional we aren't supposed to connect with that character. This is one of the most absurd assertions I've heard in quite some time.

You contradict yourself. And literature is all about understanding- how can it be an injustice to want to understand?

Alexander III
06-09-2011, 02:50 PM
To all those that are surprised at the highly autobiographical note of Dick Driver, as Fitzgerald once said "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy."

Dick is not an admirable character, but by dam he is one of the most true characters I have ever seen; With Dick, Fitzgerald does something interesting, which can be seen as a continuation of the Miltonic and Byronic tradition, but in reverse. As in the former two took a character publicly seen as loathsome, and they make the reader seduced by them, they are loathsome but also beautiful and true.

Fitzgerald does the opposite, he takes a man of genius, a man whom by mass consensus would be seen as a heroic figure, and he shows the truth behind him, he breaks the limited one dimensional external view and he presents us with the internal multiverse of the character. He teaches us that; men have flaws, but great men have great flaws.


As to the racism It doesn't bother me. Mutatis is right when he says that, though times were different, even in the 20's nigger was a derogatory word which was racist; also he is racist against Italians, French and English, but people always focus on the "niger" instead of seeing the bigger picture, his racism is not one of racial superiority but one of apathy. But the racism seems like a rather minor problem compared to his alcoholism, his betrayal of Nicole, and his indifference to his children.

Personally I quit liked Dick, I mean he is no saint, he is rather an arse, but dam it is hard not to sympathize with him, especially towards the end when we see his whole world crumble beneath him leaving him abandoned in a wasteland.

Buh4Bee
06-10-2011, 09:41 PM
I loved Dick Divers. I had great compassion for him, even in his greatest moments of weakness. He drives Nicole mad when she discovers he kissed an underage girl. He lies and yet, you, the reader, stay with him to see what will happen next. Fitzgerald spins the plot or the car the whole family is in, back toward your love of Dick and annoyance of Nicole. That is masterful writing and a plot beautifully structured. Readers are cheap and want to be entertained and this is exactly what Fitzgerald does, every time. This is one reason I think he is such a well liked writer.

I was glad to see Dick loose everything, because he was so loathsome. It was as if he earned his broken life by the choices he made. There were very real consequences for Dick's alcoholism, infidelity, and failure in his career. I think this was partly true for Fitzgerald in his own life, as this book is partly autobiographical. The ending was satisfying, but so tough that it left one wondering if there was anything else to read. Did it really go down in such a way? Did Nicole really go off into the sunset or did she trade one controlling man for another? I wish she had left and simply taken the children. Why did she need a man to be her "protector"? I guess it was the time era.

Fafnir
06-17-2011, 05:46 PM
Initially I sympathized with Dick but he just became increasingly obnoxious as he went on, unable to suppress his superiority complex any longer.
Even in the beginning, his manipulation of groups of people left me feeling uneasy, his 'perfect guy' image was a persona which he eventually found difficult to keep up.

Buh4Bee
06-17-2011, 10:16 PM
Well, in the beginning, I thought he was one of those great guys that has it all. So he kind of annoyed me. For example, at the party that was held in France on the Riveria; he was a real winner. But as he fell into his own vices, and began to fall apart, Firzgerald had a way of convincing the reader that he isn't such a bad guy. He was so handicapped by alcoholism and personal loss that his great flaws humanize him.

Buh4Bee
07-13-2011, 07:48 PM
I think this conversation supports to the point A3 in post #12. Dick is the tragic hero. The reader loves him and slowly, as the reader continues to progress, Fitzgerald unfolds the true flaws of the character. Furthermore, Fitzgerald writes to keep the reader entertained. This is one reason why the reader stays with the writer even as he strips the hero of his valor.