Tender is the Night
How we cite our quotes:
[Dick] had the power of arousing a fascinated and uncritical love. The reaction came when he realized the waste and extravagance involved. He sometimes looked back with awe at the carnivals of affection he had given, as a general might gaze upon a massacre he had ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust (1.6.15).
Even before we know that Dick is a psychiatrist and that Nicole has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, we are asked to question the sanity of the characters we meet. This is a good example of such a moment. We live in a pop-psychology word. Since Freud, the psyche is public domain. Pull up any news website and you’ll find gosh knows who giving you advice about the inner workings of your mind. Sometimes the advice is good for us, but sometimes it is not so good for us. The point is, like in Tender is the Night, we are being asked to decide. Is this serial killer crazy or is he just mean. Is Quentin Tarantino sane? Does his art reflect the workings of a sane mind? We have to ask ourselves this question many times about Dick Diver and about his art, which just happens to be psychiatry. He’s the guy that helps the mentally ill.
Drawing on your knowledge of pop-psychology how might you "diagnose" Dick in this passage? Manic depressive? Violent? Sadistic? Anti-social? The point is, we’ve heard all these things, but we don’t really know what they mean, probably not a whole lot more than F. Scott Fitzgerald did when he was writing. Luckily, we do know when something is way off. And when the mind is in extreme turmoil and pain, madness of some form ensues. In Tender is the Night, we are often asking: "who is madder than whom?"
Dick moved on through the rain, demoniac and frightened, the passions of many men inside him and nothing simple that he could see (1.24.3).
Oh, this one is just fodder for pop-psychology. Demoniac. Dick has turned into a demon. The passions of many men – is he schizophrenic like Nicole? Careful with those labels – we aren’t psychiatrists. So we better focus on the last clause of the sentence nothing simple that he could see. That’s a form of madness, right? We’ve all had that experience. When things get so mixed up that we can’t decide what to do, believe, or think, we feel like we’re going crazy. And as the clause before it tells us, Dick is just an extremely passionate guy. He wants to be everyone, to all people. No wonder his mind is getting all busted up.
"But I was very busy being mad then, so I didn’t care what he said, when I am very busy being mad I don’t usually care what they say, not if I were a million girls" (2.2.52).
With Nicole we have an elevated madness. While Dick’s is driven by extreme passion and ambition, Nicole suffered extreme childhood drama. This is from one of her letters to Dick, when she was like 16. Just before this, she’s describing being accused of faking her illness by a Chicago doctor. Isn’t it ironic? She’s so deep in her madness that she doesn’t care whether the doctor thinks she’s faking. It’s heartbreaking, really. And this thing about the "million girls," can be taken as "proof" of Nicole’s "divided personality."