When you read the Great Gatsby chronologically backward, you get Tender Is The Night. Dick Diver started off successful; Gatsby started as nothing; they went their respective ways. One might assume that means these are the same book; one would be wrong. The story focuses on the life and times of the Divers, Dick and Nicole, as well as a young Hollywood starlet named Rosemary. Dick was a renowned psychoanalyst with offices in Europe when he met Nicole, who suffered from multiple psychological issues. The two would correspond in letters, leading to their eventual romance. Halfway through their marriage, the Divers are enjoying a summer typical of the wealthy when they come upon Rosemary at the beach. Rosemary is hopeless against Dick’s charm. If you’ve read Fitzgerald before, I’ll skip to the part where Dick is ultimately disgraced and reduced to beating his boat against the tide.
The Great Gatsby taught high schoolers everywhere about the class divide in elegant if occasionally overdone prose. As sad as it was that Mr. Gatz would never possess the woman he loved (OK, so it wasn’t that sad. He still threw lavish parties in his mansion), it is infinitely sadder to see Dick Diver become undone by the woman he saved. There’s a fantastic metaphor that appears periodically in the book: On a train, Dick is asked if he would like the window shade down. He replies, “Yes, it is far too bright”. That becomes the theme for adolescents to consume. Some have said we see what we want to see. In Dick’s case, that simply isn’t true. Dick didn’t want to see the abhorrent mental state of the woman who would one day become his wife, nor did he want to see a young girl on the beach whom would ruin everything for him by no fault of her own. Throughout the novel, Dick is hoping to pull the shade down just enough to where he can manage what he sees around him. If he must be exposed to these things, perhaps it can be in small doses. Perhaps his eyes can adjust to the weirdness that has become his life. This is going to shock and bewilder you, but he chooses to use alcohol as his shade. The catch is that, when you can’t see everything going on outside, you’re bound to miss crucial events, like your wife cheating on you with a “friend” you never trusted.
What am I talking about? Kids, don’t read this book until you’re ready to embrace cynicism.