Tender Is the Night Parallels Fitzgerald’s LifeAway! Away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! Tender is the night…
-From “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats
Charles Scribner III in his introduction to the work remarks that “the title evokes the transient, bittersweet, and ultimately tragic nature of Fitzgerald’s ‘Romance’ (as he had originally subtitled the book)” (Fitzgerald ix). Tender Is the Night parallels Fitzgerald’s own struggles with his mentally ill Zelda, and the characters are carefully constructed from his interactions with the social elite of artists, composers and Hollywood personas on the French Riviera and Rome, among other settings.
From the fall of 1925 to the spring of 1934, Fitzgerald revised his fourth novel seventeen times before it was published—he was still revising it when he died in 1940. Over those years he continually promised Perkins the novel, but had to delay due to his incessant creative manipulation and extenuating personal circumstances. When he began work on the novel in 1925, he was battling debt and a severe drinking problem. His idea for his fourth novel centered around matricide and a movie director named Francis Mularky. In this version, the protagonist Mularky befriends an expatriate group and then mentally falls apart, subsequently killing his mother. The inspiration for this character, according to Bruccoli, came from two of Fitzgerald’s friends: Theodore Chanler, a composer that shared in the over-indulgent expatriate life with F. Scott and the couples, the Murphys and the MacLeishes, and then abruptly dec…
…ultiple sanitariums and found himself attracted to a young actress, Lois Moran. The novel is a chronicle of the unraveling of a character that eerily foreshadows Gatsby’s own unraveling from a drinking problem, an ailing wife and fading professional success.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. “A Brief Life of Fitzgerald.” F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, ed. Bruccoli with assistance of Judith Baughman. New York: Scribner’s, 1994.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. The Composition of Tender Is the Night. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1963.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night. New York: Scribner, 1933. 1982 ed.
Stern, Milton R. Tender Is the Night: The Broken Universe. New York: Twayne, 1994.
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