Tender is the Night Theme of Madness
Literal madness pervades Tender is the Night, and the minds of the characters are held out for us to analyze. Not surprisingly, the deeper we get into the story, the harder it is to sort out the mad from the sane. We encounter desperate acts of passion, murderous impulses, rape, jealous rages, and deepest despairs as the characters discover that when the heart breaks, the mind follows. Yet, the novel always holds out some hope for a cure. Such hope is often takes the form of deep mutual understanding, and of trust in the sanity of the natural world.
Questions About Madness
- Does the novel suggest that Nicole is "cured" by the end of the novel? If so, how do we know? If not, where do we get our information? Are there other characters that comment on this or not?
- The novel offers symptoms of Nicole’s madness. What are some of these? Do any of the other characters show symptoms like hers? How does this comment on mental health in the novel?
- Do we trust the psychiatric opinions in the novel? How do the different doctors describe Nicole’s condition? What are their opinions on her case? What does Tommy say about it?
Chew on This
Tender is the Night argues that it’s possible to recover from extreme forms of mental illness.
Tender is the Night has moments of hope, but also makes the case that once the human mind is damaged, it can never fully recover.