Dick Diver as Control Freak in Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night Essays
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Dick Diver as Control Freak in Tender Is the Night
In Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, Dick Diver is assigned the role of doctor, but he does not play this role convincingly. In modern technical terms, Diver is a control freak, more dysfunctional than his star patient and wife, Nicole Diver. As Diver loses control of more and more situations and begins to assume Nicole's instabilities, his integrity lessens -- he becomes more of a drunkard and less of a psychiatrist.
Diver's profession as a psychiatrist is the first signal Fitzgerald gives the reader that Diver's character thrives on understanding and conquering the human mind. Diver has only one plan: "To be a good psychologist -- maybe to be the greatest one that ever lived" (Fitzgerald, Tender, 132). This goal represents Diver's interest in overpowering others initially through medical practice and his understanding that he has the capacity to do so. Rooted in Diver's past, the desire to control portrays itself later in Diver's relationships and calculated behaviors.
Fitzgerald highlights Diver's incessant need to control people when describing the Divers' notorious parties. Diver wants "to give a really bad party ... a party where there's a brawl and seductions and people going about home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette" (27). To achieve this goal, Diver has perfected the skill of manipulating his guests, so that "he won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect (27-28). Diver believes he has the power to dictate the behavior of his guests and the outcome of his parties. Playing with people has become a hobby of Diver's, as he must be in control of his guests and the evening at all times.
Diver's controlling nature presents itself not only at his parties, but also in his relations with Nicole Diver. While Diver does love his wife, he nonetheless "handles" her, always treating her like a patient over whom he has power. During their courtship, the letters Diver sends to Nicole Diver say mostly, "be a good girl and mind the doctors" (130). These were not traditional love letters, rather letters between an adoring patient and her doctor. Diver retained his superior status as doctor who had control over her while corresponding with her, as his letters contained commands for her behavior -- he knew she would follow his directions.