Dick Diver’s Vague Oppression

At the end of Chapter 4 of Book 2 of Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald packs into two paragraphs what seems to be the same eventuality that awaits two young psychologists of different outlooks and goals, Dick Diver (one of the main characters in the novel) and his friend/colleague Franz Gregorovius. Dick is having dinner with Franz, Franz’s wife and Franz’s dog, overlooking the horizon in Zurich. He sees Franz and in him sees the dullness of a learned man, the boundaries that his profession has put on his person, his life deliberately cut down “to the scale of an inherited suit,” as Fitzgerald puts it. Dick lies in bed and fears that this is what it means to be what he is becoming: to be like Franz and his wife, secure in an asceticism that “lacks grace and adventure.” Fitzgerald writes:

“‘God, am I like the rest after all?’–so [Dick] used to think staring awake at night–‘Am I like the rest?’ This was poor material for a socialist but good material for those who do much of the world’s rarest work. The truth was that for some months he had been going through that partitioning of the things of youth wherein it is decided whether or not to die for what one no longer believes. In the dead white hours in Zurich staring into a stranger’s pantry across the upshine of a streetlamp, he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in.” End of chapter.

And so begins, I think (and will find out as I continue reading), Dick’s journey toward a life not his own.


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