Places: Tender Is the Night

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1934

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: 1920’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*French Riviera

*French Tender Is the NightRiviera. Resort area along France’s Mediterranean coast that the novel refers to as the “home” of Dick Diver and his wife. The novel opens there, and the Divers periodically return there, and there the novel concludes with Dick blessing the beach from a terrace. As a literary device, the Riviera and its cities represent various aspects of the characters, the lives they lead, and the kinds of people they are becoming. The Riviera is pictured as a playground for the rich and famous, a place where Rosemary attends empty, pretentious parties with the Divers; where Nicole Warren spends money prodigiously–an indication of the relentless materialism of her family; where Dick repeatedly shines as glib host at dinner parties; where Mary North and Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers are arrested for their careless, condescending shenanigans; and where Nicole’s infidelity with Tommy Barban occurs.

Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers

Gausse’s Hôtel des Étrangers (gos-es oh-tel day-say-trahn-jay). Hotel on the French Riviera located somewhere “between Marseilles and the Italian Border” in which the novel opens. The hotel’s beach is where the initial infatuation begins between Dick Diver and film star Rosemary Hoyt and is the site of many scenes juxtaposed to indicate both the Divers’ charm as a couple and the ultimate disintegration of their marriage.

The hotel is significant as a gathering place for an elite group of wealthy and fashionable people, of whom Dick Diver is the indisputable star. Initially Diver’s “talent” is described as an ability to bring out the best in people and make them feel inexplicably satisfied with themselves without too much self-examination. It is his idealism that draws people to him. The hotel also serves as a meeting place for the disparate symbolic elements in Tender Is the Night in which an older, worldly, aesthetically and morally bankrupt Europe–which is epitomized in the Hotel, the Riviera, Paris, and Rome–is contrasted with a “diseased” America, epitomized by Nicole Diver’s mental illness brought on by a betrayal of her innocence. Although Dick represents all that is vital, charming, hopeful, and best in America, he is unable to save his “home” (an Old World sense of tradition and values) and himself (American idealism). Instead, he sacrifices his own spiritual depth and potential to revitalize his psychologically sick wife (an irrevocably materialistic America).


*Zurich. Swiss city that is the site of the novel’s first flashback (to 1917), which delineates how Dick Diver meets and decides to wed–and rehabilitate–Nicole, the mental patient. It is also the site of Nicole’s internment after falling ill later in the novel.

Zurich may represent parallels with Fitzgerald’s own problems with his wife Zelda, who was hospitalized in a Swiss sanatorium until her death. The novel’s book 2 opens in Zurich, where Dick is to complete his studies. Switzerland is described as an “island” and implies isolation from the complications of a more morally bankrupt world. Switzerland is also where the couple finally retreats when Nicole’s sister, Baby Warren, finances Dick’s interest in a mental clinic. Finally, the city and its country also represent the field of psychoanalysis (Dick’s profession), his dedication to his wife, and ultimately his inability to cure himself of his incipient alcoholism.


*Rome. Italy’s capital city is the site of Dick Diver’s brawl with police, his affair with Rosemary, and a physical representation of his apparent deterioration. A horrific scene of violence in the Italian jail is symptomatic of the morally degenerating Dick–who can be saved only by the influence and money of Baby Warren–evidencing his moral degradation at being “bought” (implied throughout the novel every time Nicole’s money is mentioned.) The final irony, foreshadowed by Rome, is that by “consecrating” himself to his marriage, Dick is destroyed, while Nicole is cured. The cure, however, is representative of a prosperous America–robust, powerful, eminently capitalistic–just as Nicole herself has become, and who spends frivolously because she can. This “cure,” however, is achieved at a terrible cost, for Dick’s idealism and essence are lost.

BibliographyBruccoli, Matthew J. The Composition of “Tender Is the Night”: A Study of the Manuscripts. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963. This definitive study of the text provides a comprehensive analysis of the novel’s seventeen drafts. By chronicling significant changes between versions, Bruccoli offers valuable evidence of the forces that influenced Fitzgerald’s creative process.Hook, Andrew. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin’s, 2002. Part of the Literary Lives series. Concise rather than thorough, but with some interesting details.LaHood, Marvin J., ed. “Tender Is the Night”: Essays in Criticism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969. Offers a wide variety of criticism ranging from discussions of theme, symbolism, and dialogue to psychological topics. Two of the essays discuss connections between Fitzgerald and John Keats.Metzger, Charles R. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Psychiatric Novel: Nicole’s Case, Dick’s Case. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. An intriguing psychoanalytic study of the novel that examines Nicole’s and Dick’s mental symptoms, discusses the effectiveness of their treatments, and debates whether they recovered from their psychological problems.Stern, Milton R. Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night.” Boston: G. K. Hall, 1986. Provides two discussions of Fitzgerald’s text, as well as critical responses to the novel in chronological order, beginning with contemporary reviews from the 1930’s. Includes valuable essays by Matthew J. Bruccoli, Malcolm Cowley, and Arthur Mizener, among others.Stern, Milton R. “Tender Is the Night”: The Broken Universe. New York: Twayne, 1994. Provides literary and historical context for the novel, as well as a reading of various types of identities in the novel. Also contains a useful chronology of Fitzgerald’s life.
Categories: Places