cover of book

Tender Is the Night and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Sentimental Identities
by Christian K. Messenger
University of Alabama Press, 2015
eISBN: 978-0-8173-8797-6 | Cloth: 978-0-8173-1853-6
Library of Congress Classification PS3511.I9T4727 2014
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.52

In this fascinating study, Chris Messenger posits F. Scott Fitzgerald as a great master of sentiment in modern American fiction. Sentimental forms both attracted and repelled Fitzgerald while defining his deepest impulses as a prose writer. Messenger demonstrates that the sentimental identities, refractions, and influences Fitzgerald explores in Tender Is the Night define key components in his affective life, which evolved into a powerful aesthetic that informed his vocation as a modernist writer.
In “ Tender Is the Night” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’ s Sentimental Identities, Messenger traces the roots of Fitzgerald’ s writing career to the deaths of his two infant sisters a few months before his own birth. It was their loss, Fitzgerald wrote, that made him a writer. Messenger highlights how the loss of Fitzgerald’ s siblings powerfully molded his relation to maternal nurturing and sympathy in Tender Is the Night as well as how it shaped the homosocial intimations of its care-giving protagonist, psychiatrist Dick Diver. A concomitant grief and mourning was fueled by Fitzgerald’ s intimate and intense creative rivalry with his often-institutionalized wife, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.
While sentiment is a discredited strain in high modernism, Fitzgerald nevertheless embraced it in Tender Is the Night to fashion this most poignant and beautiful successor to The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’ s aesthetic and emotional preoccupations came most vividly to life in this major novel. Messenger describes how Fitzgerald, creating his character Nicole Warren Diver as a victim of paternal incest, finally found the sentimental key to finishing his novel and uniting his vision of the two narratives of “ saving” the two sisters and reimagining the agony of his wife and their marriage.
Fitzgerald’ s productive quarrel with and through sentiment defines his career, and Messenger convincingly argues that Tender Is the Night should be placed alongside TheGreat Gatsby as a classic exemplar of the modern novel.

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