Tender is the night


Tender is the Night

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was born into a Catholic family living in St Paul, Minnesota. He decided to become a writer at Princeton University, leaving without graduating in 1917 to join the army when America entered the First World War. He was one of the major American writers of the twentieth century. He left us one sure masterpiece: The Great Gatsby.

Dick and Nicole, a glamorous couple have a villa in the South of France. They are surrounded with a circle of friends, mainly Americans. Also staying at the resort are Rosemary, a young actress, and her mother. Rosemary is sucked into the circle of the couple; she becomes in love with Dick and is also adopted as a close friend by Nicole. What happened to them?

Waiting for Nicole

They were at Voisins waiting for Nicole, six of them, Rosemary, the Norths, Dick Diver and two young French musicians. They were looking over the other patrons of the restaurant to see if they had repose, Dick said no American men had any repose, except himself, and they were seeking an example to confront him with.

Things looked black for them, not a man had come into the restaurant for ten minutes without raising his hand to his face.

"We ought never to have given up waxed mustaches," said Abe. "Nevertheless Dick isn't the only man with repose."

"Oh, yes, I am."

",.. but he may be the only sober man with repose."

A well-dressed American had come in with two women who swooped and fluttered unself-consciously around a table. Suddenly, he perceived that he was being watched, whereupon his hand rose spasmodically and arranged a phantom bulge in his necktie.

In another unseated party a man endlessly patted his shaven cheek with his palm, and his companion mechanically raised and lowered the stub of a cold cigar. The luckier ones fingered eyeglasses and facial hair, the unequipped stroked blank mouths, or even pulled desperately at the lobes of their ears.

A well-known general came in, and Abe, counting on the man's first year at West Point, that year during which no cadet can resign and from which none ever recovers, made a bet with Dick of five dollars.

His hands hanging naturally at his sides, the general waited to be seated. Once his arms swung suddenly backward like a jumper's and Dick said, "Ah!" supposing he had lost control, but the general recovered and they breathed again, the agony was nearly over, the garçon was pulling out his chair...

With a touch of fury the conqueror shot up his hand and scratched his gray immaculate head.

"You see," said Dick smugly, "I'm the only one."

Rosemary was quite sure of it and Dick, realizing that he never had a better audience, made the group into so bright a unit that Rosemary felt an impatient disregard for all who were not at their table. They had been two days in Paris but actually they were still under the beach umbrella.

When, as at the ball of the Corps des Pages the night before, the surroundings seemed formidable to Rosemary, who had yet to attend a Mayfair party in Hollywood, Dick would bring the scene within range by greeting a few people, a sort of selection, the Divers seemed to have a large acquaintance, but it was always as if the person had not seen them for a long, long time, and was utterly bowled over, "Why, where do you keep yourselves?" and then re-create the unity of his own party by destroying the outsiders softly but permanently with an ironic coup de grâce.

Presently Rosemary seemed to have known those people herself in some deplorable past, and then got on to them, rejected them, discarded them.

Their own party was overwhelmingly American and sometimes scarcely American at all. It was themselves he gave back to them, blurred by the compromises of how many years.

Into the dark, smoky restaurant, smelling of the rich raw foods on the buffet, slid Nicole's sky-blue suit like a stray segment of the weather outside. Seeing from their eyes how beautiful she was, she thanked them with a smile of radiant appreciation. They were all very nice people for a while, very courteous and all that.

Then they grew tired of it and they were funny and bitter, and finally they made a lot of plans. They laughed at things that they would not remember clearly afterward, laughed a lot and the men drank three bottles of wine.

The trio of women at the table were representative of the enormous flux of American life. Nicole was the granddaughter of a self-made American capitalist and the granddaughter of a Count of the House of Lippe Weissenfeld.

Mary North was the daughter of a journeyman paperhanger and a descendant of President Tyler. Rosemary was from the middle of the middle-class, catapulted by her mother onto the uncharted heights of Hollywood..