Study Guide

Tender is the Night Appearances

By F. Scott Fitzgerald


Often he used [good manners] and just as often he despised them because they were not a protest against how unpleasant selfishness was but against how unpleasant it looked (2.10.21).

As the passage indicates, Dick goes back and forth on the manners thing. He gets really irritated with Collis Clay when he talks to Dick without first "complimenting" Nicole. Here he seems to believe that so much of what passes for good manners is really just a cover for selfishness. That is, you can do something really selfish and get away with it if you are very polite about it. Dick should know – he can be really good at it.

He tried breaking into other dialogues, but it was like continually shaking hands with a glove from which the hand had been withdrawn (1.7.13).

This is poor Abe McKisco at the first Villa Diana party. He just can’t fit in. People will give him their glove or the appearance of interest, but it always lacks substance. They are not really with him.

"But what?" Kaethe demanded. "Do you think that sort of thing does the Clinic any good? The liquor I smelt on him tonight, and several other times since he’s been back." (3.1.32).

Appearances are pretty important when people are giving you lots of money to cure their minds, or the minds of family members. It turns out that Kaethe isn’t the only one who notices. Dick’s appearance as a drunk seems to lead to the final crumbling of his dream to seriously practice.

Down in the garden lanterns still glowed over the table where they had dined, as the Divers stood side by side in the gate, Nicole blooming away and filling the night with graciousness, and Dick bidding good-by to everyone by name (1.8.26).

As we find out later, Nicole just had a pretty serious breakdown. No one would ever guess it from this description. Is the description inaccurate? Or does Nicole’s exterior mask her interior. What are some other interpretations of this passage?

"Yes – well they were having words and she tossed some sand in his face. So naturally he sat on top of her and rubbed her face in the sand. We were – electrified. I wanted Dick to interfere." (1.4.39).

Nicole is talking about the McKisco’s. They don’t seem to care about appearances. Does this have anything to do with McKisco’s later success in the novel, or does it just show that he and his wife are not fit for "polite" circles? Until that day at the fair, all of Nicole’s dramatic episodes happen in private. Why might she find the scene between the McKiscos threatening?

...For Doctor Diver to marry a mental patient? How did it happen? Where did it begin? (2.9.60).

It’s hard to know exactly whose perspective this is from. Perhaps this passage is like a Greek chorus, meant to echo the collective sentiments of a town or community. Maybe it’s Dick, or even Nicole. We can safely say that it’s a judgmental voice, commenting on how their marriage doesn’t look quite right.

– the name of the ubiquitously renowned Baby Warren had occurred and it was remarked that Baby’s younger sister had thrown herself away on a dissipated doctor. "He’s not received anywhere any more," the woman said (3.7.69).

Well there’s a reversal for you. Rosemary is thinking of gossip she’s heard. Dick has lost all appearance of respectability now and Nicole has gained a favorable appearance.

Evil-eyed, Nicole stood apart, denying the children, resenting them as part of a downright world she sought to make amorphous (2.16.57).

How must Nicole appear to her children here? Also, here at the fair, Nicole publicly exhibits her madness. She hasn’t done this since before she was committed when she was 16. Is her appearance here a mask or an accurate reflection of her at that moment?

"That’s too bad – I’m very sorry. But you see our children mustn’t be bathed in his water. That’s out of the question – I’m sure your mistress would be furious if she had known you had done a thing like that" (2.5.53).

Yep. This is the scene where Dick and Nicole mistake a super rich guy’s sister for a maid. It’s an honest mistake, if you judge by appearances. She looks like a maid and Mary knows this. That’s why she explained it to Dick so carefully. He is relying too heavily on appearances now and is failing to see who people really are.