The Effects of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Life On His Characters


To understand the female personalities of the novel you must be familiar with Zelda Fitzgerald, F.
Scott Fitzgerald's wife. Zelda was "...the toast of Montgomery, a vivacious blond who had hoards of
suitors" (7). Zelda was from a wealthy and respectable family, but she herself was known for her
unconventional and reckless enterprises. She was also troubled with schizophrenia, and paid numerous
visits to mental institutions (Bloom 77). Zelda and her illness had a profound effect on the life of Scott
Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald's characters often parallel Zelda and her experiences. One of the most obvious
uses of Zelda is found in the character Nicole Diver.
Like Zelda, Nicole has a history of mental illness. "Nicole Diver's illness is drawn from Zelda
Fitzgerald's own case history" (Bloom 65). She was sexually abused by her father as a child. Nicole, too,
spent numerous occasions in a mental hospital. Nicole's mental illness is one of the main focuses of the
story because it's what deteriorated her husband and main character in the novel, Dick Diver.
Dick was Nicole's husband, but being a successful phsyciatrist, he served as her doctor and caretaker. Dick
healed and cared for Nicole, much like what Scott Fitzgerald did for Zelda. "There is a paradox in the
dependence relationship which readers can sense--even though Fitzgerald himself did not seem to realize it-
- perhaps because in a very real sense he was writing about himself and Zelda..." (Poston 40).
Another example of Zelda Fitzgerald's similarity to Nicole Diver is in the notes Nicole wrote to
Dick from the mental institution in Switzerland. Zelda Fitzgerald herself had written Scott Fitzgerald such
letters early on in their relationship, during one of her stays at a mental ward. "...many portions of these
letters were taken from letters which Zelda Fitzgerald wrote her husband during her stay in a mental
hospital in Switzerland, and she had called Scott in some of her letters, Mon Capitaine, just as Nicole does"
(Poston 32).
A second instance of Zelda's influence in the character of Nicole Diver is in Nicole's actions in the
climax of chapter fifteen. In a time of illness, Nicole grabbed the steering wheel of the car and nearly
drove it off the side of a cliff.

He had turned up a hill that made a short cut to the clinic, and now as he stepped on the
accelerator for a short straight away run parrelell to the hillside the car swerved right, tipped on two wheels,
and as Dick, with Nicole's voice screaming in his ear, crushed down the mad hand clutching the steering
wheel, rightened itself, swerved once more and shot off the road, it tore through low underbrush, tipped
again and settled slowly at an angle of ninety degrees against a tree.

Zelda did the same thing. In this instance Zelda and Nicole's actions are not only the same, but Fitzgerald
writes himself into the script. "...it is less Dick Diver thinking of Nicole than F. Scott Fitzgerald who wants
to knock some sense into Zelda"(Poston 44).
A third example of Zelda in Nicole is Nicole's sudden desire for a career. "Nicole has no sense of
self accept for her identification with Dick. So completely dependent on him is she that she wants actually
to be him, even to the extent of copying his profession" (Gallo 36). Zelda, too, had desired a career and
made several attempts. One of those attempts was writing. Fitzgerald's attitude toward his wife's venture
seems to be displayed through Dick Diver's reaction toward Nicole's career endeavor. In the novel
"...Nicole's desire to be like her husband was rooted in sickness, and one cannot help wondering whether
that was Fitzgerald's attitude toward his own wife's literary efforts" (Gallo 36).
There are many other minor connections between Nicole Diver and Zelda Fitzgerald in Tender is
the Night, such as alchohalism. Another similarity was that Nicole and Zelda were both the product of
wealthy families. A third connection between the lives of the Fitzgerald's and Divers is that they both spent
extensive amounts of time of the Riviera, because both Nicole and Zelda revered it greatly.. Adittionaly,
another common thread is Nicole Divers' sister, Baby Warren. The name "Baby" was a nickname given