The Awakening vs. Tender Is the Night

Topics: Literature, Western canon, Tender Is the Night Pages: 5 (1221 words) Published: May 22, 2014
Research Comparison Essay
Before being inducted into any hall of fame, a candidate must first stand out among others. In addition to being evaluated based on their achievements and their influence in the community, they will also be compared to current members of that hall of fame. If the candidate’s success measures up to that of existing hall of famers, they will be elected to join. Inducting literature into an official canon uses a similar process. Through identifying the similarities between the classic canonical novel Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and naturalist Kate Chopin’s novella The Awakening, one confidently deems the latter author and her work worthy of canonical recognition. Conflicts begin to develop from, and lead to, decisions made by the characters. Additionally significant are the themes in both literary works which create everlasting worth. In conclusion, complex and dynamic protagonists establish depth and interest in the story. One of the more obvious elements in Tender Is the Night and The Awakening is conflict; the development of complex differences gives the protagonist incentive to act as well as adjusting from the consequences of these actions. Primarily, Dick’s conflict with his wife provokes him into making poor decisions. With Nicole’s increase in self-confidence and individual strength comes her decrease in reliance on Dick, causing him to feel a strong “need to find someone who depends upon him and will admire him, as Nicole had done” (Berman 784). This developing lack of interest within his marriage is how he justifies having sexual relations with young women. In addition to his apathetic marriage, Dick fosters a negative relationship with society by demonstrating indecent behavior. From his love affair with a teenage girl, the inappropriate way he views his daughter, and a legal accusation of raping a child, others conclude that “the boundaries of categorization (daughter/lover) have broken down for Dick”, casting him as an outsider (Cokal 80). The contradiction between Dick’s values and those of society lead to the social condemnation of his character. Similar to Dick, Edna Pontellier’s most significant and rousing conflict is that with her spouse. Edna, driven to take back her life from Mr. Pontellier’s control, “resolved never again to belong to another than herself” (Chopin 108). The unhappiness that she feels within her marriage contributes to her defiant behavior. As a result of Edna’s noncompliance and societal disdain, conflict materializes between her and the people in her society. Although Edna knows that she “descended in the social scale”, she recognizes the “corresponding sense of having risen in the spiritual” sense (Chopin 127). This major conflict with society is the byproduct of her newfound insight. In general, elements of the plot play a large role in the actions taken by characters within the story; likewise, the conflicts within the plot develop motivation for Dick Diver and Edna Pontellier. Beyond the apparent conflicts within The Awakening and Tender Is the Night lie deeper meanings that give the stories timeless significance of unyielding value. To begin, in Tender Is the Night, one person’s process to become stronger causes the destruction of another. Nicole “comes to depend upon him [Dick] less” with her increasing self-sufficiency, initiating Dick’s downfall as he “loses his purpose” (Berman 784). Hurting another person is timeless relevance. In addition, Fitzgerald allegorically refers to America’s loss of optimism. Dick’s downfall represents “America's own receding idealism throughout the 1920s” (Haegert 101). The historical significance within the novel makes it great. Like the theme within Tender is the Night, The Awakening reveals that with wisdom and self-discovery come seclusion. Edna “was there beside the sea, absolutely alone” in her rare understanding of life (Chopin 156). Others’ inability to understand Edna drives her into solitude....

Cited: Berman, Ronald. “F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender Is the Night.” Magill’s Survey of American
Literature. Ed. Steven G. Kellman. Rev. ed. Vol. 2. Pasadena: Salem Press, Inc., 2007. 783-784. Print.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Rev. ed. New York: Bantam Dell Random House Inc., 2003. 71-
157. Print.
Cokal, Susann. “Caught In the Wrong Story: Psychoanalysis And Narrative Structure In Tender Is
the Night.” Texas Studies In Literature & Language 47.1 (2005): 75-100. Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Haegert, John. “Repression And Counter-Memory In Tender Is the Night.” Essays In Literature
21.1 (1994): 97-115. Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
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