Concept of the Month -- August 2007

Dick Diver from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender Is the Night": A comment on a 1920's narcissist and today's celebrity narcissists

"He opened the gate to his amusing world. So long as [people] subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation..."God, am I like the rest after all?" -- so he used to think starting awake at night--"Am I like the rest?"

In college, I read "Tender is the Night". Just last week, I re-read the book that I read first in 1962. I am not writing here as a literary critic but as someone who has spent 37 years evaluating, treating, and writing about people who build themselves up at the expense of others and who see themselves as the hub of the wheel around which everyone else revolves. Many of these individuals take such egregious liberties that they wind up in jail. (Dick Diver did spend a brief period in jail.) But many are talented and successful as was physician Dick Diver. They have magnetic personalities drawing people into their web. Others find them brilliant, exciting, and just plain fun to be with. However, like F. Scott Fitzgerald's character, Dick Diver, they are morally corrupt and therefore victimize others, especially the vulnerable who succumb to their charm. We seem to be hearing in the media more about these people who are celebrities in Hollywood and in the world of sports. While we are dazzled by their talents, we may be surprised and dismayed to discover that behind the public persona, they engage in domestic violence, drug abuse, assaultive behavior, even cruelly pitting dogs against each other for purposes of gambling on the outcome.

The glamorous Dick Diver ends up, not on the Riviera or in Switzerland with the beautiful people, but in an office in Buffalo "evidently without success....He became entangled with a young girl who worked in a grocery store, and he was also involved in a lawsuit about some medical question." F. Scott Fitzgerald, in this landmark of American fiction, succeeds in truly describing and unmasking this narcissist. Something similar seems to be happening with increasing frequency in our contemporary life!

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