Tender is the Night
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
As we discuss in the "The Book," this novel took about eight years to write and was laboriously revised and cut from many thousands of pages of writing to the 300 some odd pages that we have before us. Also, one of the novel’s main characters, Nicole Diver, struggles with schizophrenia, caused, the novel suggests, by her father having raped her when she was a young teen, just after her mother’s death. The novel’s author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, was living a similar struggle. During the completion of the novel, his wife Zelda was hospitalized and being treated for schizophrenia. The novel anguishes over the lives of its characters as they explore the extremes of love, madness, and ambition in lush beauty and opulence, against the backdrop of a world torn apart by World War I. The tone constantly reminds us that all this is serious business – the struggles of the human condition are not to be taken lightly. Yet whenever we see nature in the novel, the tone becomes hopeful, suggesting perhaps that nourishing and being nourished by nature’s bounty can somehow heal the suffering and pain of the characters and the earth itself.