Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 1, Chapters v-x

Sulking, Rosemary goes to Monte Carlo to meet with Earl Brady, who is shooting a film. She feels attracted to him when she realizes that he desires her. She suggests that he come back to Hollywood with her, but he refuses and tells her to stay until after the shot that he is filming--he will show her around the studio. But not wanting to confront his desire, Rosemary leaves.

Following lunch, Nicole goes for a walk through her garden at Villa Diana, the Divers' massive house in Tarmes. She waits silently as Dick crosses the path ahead of her, heading toward his workhouse, and then goes to a ledge to stare down at the Mediterranean Sea. Dick sees her and raises his megaphone to call out that he invited Mrs. Abrams for dinner (to Nicole's dismay) and that he intends to "give a really bad party" (p. 27). Nicole reflects on his characteristic ability to sweep everyone up into his own excitement and generate their love for them before he slips into melancholy, recognizing the "waste and extravagance involved" (p. 27). He is considerate, polite, and winning, and people feel important when he allows them to be part of his special world. But he is quick to retreat at the first indication of their waning loyalty.

That evening, Dick expresses a certain paternal interest in Rosemary as he talks with her and Mrs. Speers. When Earl Brady arrives, Rosemary is jolted by an electric attraction to him, but she feels that he is "faintly gross" (p. 29) and ill-bred in comparison to Dick.

After a half hour at the table, the mood of the guests has changed; everyone has relinquished all anxieties and suspicions. McKisco, who is intoxicated, remains the unassimilated guest. He tries to spark conversation but fails. Rosemary takes note of the guests, noting in particular her mother's perfection and Nicole's unique and silent beauty. The Divers, briefly, seem to flow with friendliness and affection. Rosemary has the sense that everyone is undeniably unified. This moment vanishes before any of them has completely noticed its existence.

The party disperses to the garden, and suddenly Dick and Nicole have disappeared. Rosemary declines Earl Brady's offer to walk down to the sea, deciding to wait for Dick's return. McKisco, a socialist, argues with Tommy Barban, who is bloodthirsty and willing to fight the Soviets. Mrs. McKisco runs back excitedly along the path, explaining that she "came upon a scene" upstairs--but Tommy quickly and cryptically interrupts that "it's inadvisable to comment on what goes on in this house" (p. 36).

Just as Rosemary had anticipated, Dick speaks with her alone on the terrace. He invites Rosemary to join him and Nicole on their trip to Paris to see Abe off to America. Rosemary reiterates her love, and Dick is torn between the impulse to retreat from her and the fear of losing her. After a moment of near-intimacy, they return to the others on the terrace.

When the party ends and the Divers issue their farewells, the moment seems very poignant to Rosemary. She wonders what Mrs. McKisco saw in the house.

Earl Brady and the Divers' chauffeur drive the guests to their respective destinations. Rosemary (in Earl Brady's car) dozes for three hours before awakening and fantasizing about kissing Dick. In the hotel bed, she is unable to sleep for the first time in her life. She tries to think through the situation as her mother would. Mrs. Speers raised Rosemary with a strong work ethic, and because Rosemary is financially independent, her mother encourages her to pursue the romance with Dick Diver, knowing that she cannot be ruined by it.

At dawn, she still cannot sleep. She walks along the terrace and sees Luis Campion weeping. He declines her offer to help, explaining that she is too young to understand the tribulations of love. He has had some sort of love quarrel with Royal Dumphry. Campion then excitedly explains that there will be a duel in an hour.

Abe North arrives, drunk. He recounts the build-up to the duel. Mrs. McKisco was trying to tell Mrs. Abrams about the disturbing scene she had encountered upstairs in the Divers' home, but the warmongering Tommy Barban, who is "a watch-dog about the Divers" (p. 43), tried to silence her, so the two of them quarreled. Tommy threatened to throw the McKiscos out of the car. Mr. McKisco, in an attempt to demonstrate his courage, suggested a duel, not imagining that Tommy would accept.

Abe explains that the Divers must not know that they were the cause of the duel. Rosemary and Abe go to see Mr. McKisco, who is sitting on his bed and has apparently been drinking all night and writing a letter to his wife. With tears in his eyes, he speaks as though he is already defeated, feeling guilty about leaving his wife without a way of returning to America and regretting that he never finished his novel. Abe hands Mr. McKisco one of Tommy's dueling pistols, which he borrowed so that Mr. McKisco could get used to them. Before leaving, Mr. McKisco asks to speak to Abe alone; Rosemary leaves.


Nicole's youth and beauty are highlighted by her association with the garden. She walks into "an area so green and cool that the leaves and petals [are] curled with tender damp" (p. 25), and when Mrs. Speers comments on the garden, Dick is quick to explain that it is "Nicole's garden" and she "won't let it alone" (p. 28). This is Nicole's private environment, one of the spaces in the book that best represents her, and it reveals not only vitality and a capacity for regrowth, but also a sense of solitude. She walks her garden alone, pausing to listen detachedly to her children fighting and, again, to avoid Dick as he walks to his workhouse. There is a certain distance between the Divers that is hinted at in these early chapters, though it is not explained. There seems to be a wall of silence that they have nurtured.

This distance is further expressed when Dick calls to Nicole through a megaphone. This medium of conversation would suggest that there is quite a distance between the two. Still, Nicole replies to him with an ease "that seemed to belittle his megaphone" (p. 27). Despite the apparent superfluity of the megaphone, Dick continues to use it. This is perhaps the first indication that he is the one who imposes distance in the relationship.

Furthermore, this is a rare scene in Book 1 in which the Divers are not viewed through Rosemary's eyes. Rosemary is in love with the Divers and their marriage (despite her jealousy), and she is endlessly admiring of Dick. This scene, however, depicted by an objective narrator, suggests that there is something vaguely pitiable about Dick. More importantly, it insinuates the complex power dynamic that exists between them. Initially, Dick seems to be powerful with his booming, amplified voice. Nicole's power is internal, however, and she is conscious of belittling her husband. Their power dynamic shifts and changes throughout the novel, and, although Nicole clearly ends up the victor, this scene serves as a suggestion that, despite the history of the Divers and of Nicole's mental illness, perhaps she is really in control, in some way, the entire time.

Understanding the historical context of Tender is the Night is crucial to understanding much of its symbolic meaning. The novel was written during the final years of the Jazz Age, a roaring period of reckless excess that in some ways resulted in a catastrophe: The Great Depression. Fitzgerald's narrative traces a parallel path from extravagence to destruction through the character of Dick Diver (as well as through that of Abe North). Dick's parties are well known for their unparalleled extravagance, and he delights in sweeping all of his guests into the excitement of the evening, into his "carnivals of affection," yet he is burdened afterward by "his own form of melancholy" when he realizes "the waste and extravagence involved" (p. 27). He sets out to throw a party "where there's a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette" (p. 27). This is the very mood that carries Dick to his downfall. Just as America suffered the consequences of the "Roaring Twenties," so too does Dick surrender all of his resources (financial, psychological, and emotional) to his careless and turbulent lifestyle.