This essay addresses the black presence in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night (1934) not simply as an episode but as the very backbone of the plot. Inserting Fitzgerald into an unexpected lineage that originates with James Weldon Johnson and moves to Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison, it argues that Fitzgerald shares with these writers a complex fusion of racial disorder, musical contagion, and intergenerational rivalry. Like Johnson and Reed, Fitzgerald also uses the figure of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Topsy to announce the various permutations of race in the novel and to uncover the white characters’ fear of miscegenation and incest. Tender Is the Night is a “topsy-turvy” novel because of the dynamic patterning of black and white imagery Fitzgerald employs to reveal the slippery racial surface of the 1920s.
Antonelli, S. (2020). A Topsy-Turvy Novel: 'Coloring Gestures' in Tender Is the Night. AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY, 32(3), 480-506 [10.1093/alh/ajaa015].