The Literary Criticism Of The Sun Also Rises
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway are some of the greatest works of literature in the post World War I generation. Disillusion is a common theme that occurs in both stories. Fitzgerald uses Nicole Diver as a falsely vulnerable master whose apparent need for the protagonist fills him with hope, however, ends up shattering his confidence when she leaves him for another man. Hemingway uses Lady Brett Ashley to give the protagonist false hope, rather than building his creativity and performance, she constantly encourages the pursuit of her only to abandon and betray him in the end. Disillusion is a common theme that occurs in the relationships in Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s protagonist, Dick Diver, is caught between two women throughout the story, however, one woman manages to possess a great amount of control over Dick which makes him believe she is better than she actually is. In order for Nicole to become Dick’s primary muse, the other woman needs to be dispensed. At the beginning of the book, one of the potential muses is introduced, Rosemary. Dick first meets Rosemary on the beach along Riviera and almost instantly falls in love with him when, “He looks at her and for a moment she lives in the bright blue worlds of his eyes, eagerly and confidently” (12). Instead of chasing her, she chases after him. Rosemary is intimidated by, envious of, and drawn to Nicole because she can see that Dick is already possessed by her (20). Hence, any bit of love she may be able to draw from him is merely an escape from or fulfillment of what Nicole inspires in him. Rosemary is one of the people swept up into Dick’s excitement, while Nicole understands the form of melancholy, which he never displayed that inevitably followed (27). Here, Fitzgerald gives one of his first clues as to Nicole’s role in Dick’s life: she can instill excitement and stir ability in the protagonist, but, as in the case of her mythical predecessors, she also sees the utter sadness to follow when she, the foundation for both of them, is ripped away from him. As Fitzgerald’s embodiment of the creative and optimistic muse within Dick, Nicole’s first task in teaching man to see the heights from which he has fallen, the lost hope of permanent morality—is to make him believe that he can once again scale the steps to that expectant view he, and an entire people, once embraced. Dick returns from his time in WW I unaware of the “intricate destiny” into which he “is ready to be called” as a hero, just “like Grant, lolling in his general store in Galina” (118).
Ironically, Fitzgerald compares the arrogant Dick Diver, who “didn’t see any of the war” to General Grant prior to joining the Union forces and fighting in the Civil War (119). While this reference could suggest Dick’s future successes— after all, Grant went on to become the general of the Union forces and President of the United States—it seems more likely that Fitzgerald relates Dick to Grant not only in his rise to heroism, but also in his death in political and civilian failure (most notable for appointing unscrupulous advisors, alcoholism, and bankruptcy) before his memoirs could even be published. Furthermore, this analogy implies that the moment of Dick’s discussion with Franz Gregorovius regarding “that girl” (119) is really the beginning of the war for him (an echo of the impact of the historical Great War on changing a generation and robbing them of their egoism as well as their trust in the justice of life).13 As with the other muses, Nicole is perhaps a projection of Dick’s own need to confer the utter brokenness of his time upon himself, as we see when he suggests to himself in the third person that “he must be less intact, even faintly destroyed” even “though it would be nice to build out some broken side till it was better than the original structure” (116). Fitzgerald uses this pattern for Dick’s fall. In his attempt to rescue and restore a broken Nicole to a better version than the original delivered to Zurich as a teenager, he actually finds himself “less intact, even faintly destroyed,” and utterly lost as to his purpose (116). However, as with each of the muses of disillusionment, before he can truly experience the depths of lack each of us must.
Though the book’s episodes are not chronological, in order to best show Nicole’s impact on Dick as his psychological muse, I have started the analysis of her significance with the chronological beginnings of their relationship and will continue to discuss events tied to their relationship in the order in which they happen.
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