This article charts how Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness may have allowed F. Scott Fitzgerald a partial way forward to key narrative and stylistic decisions in Tender Is the Night. Tender appears to think richly past its creator to embrace influences and echoes from Conrad’s classic early modernist text in the realm of constituting character, determining scene, and fixing narrative construction. Conrad and Fitzgerald each expressed a resentful caretaking of the feminine in canonical texts while expressing their frustration at the power of sentiment to influence their heroes’ sensibilities. Fitzgerald in reading Heart of Darkness appears to have been significantly influenced by Kurtz’s self-hatred and vaulting ambition and also by Marlow’s instinctive suppression of Kurtz’s actions, with his concomitant manipulation and resentment of women. The strongest similarities to Fitzgerald’s Dick Diver are in the disgust both he and Marlow feel for “women as power” and how they pattern out their emotions. Furthermore, Heart of Darkness yields two avatars of Conrad’s Kurtz for Fitzgerald as well as perhaps another source for a suppressed ending to Tender. At different points, Fitzgerald also provides the women of Tender with powerful and satiric interrogations of Dick’s sentimental regimen, its weaknesses, and blind spots. Both Nicole Diver’s keening in discovering the dead body of Jules Peterson in Rosemary Hoyt’s bed and Dick’s final interview with bland survivor Mary North Minghetti above the beach on the Riviera suggest surprising parallels to Marlow’s final conversation with Kurtz’s Intended in Brussels.

You do not currently have access to this content.