Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 1, Chapters xi-xv

In the lobby, Campion asks Rosemary to attend the duel with him, and she declines, saying that her mother would not approve. Back in the room, however, Mrs. Speers tells her she should go see the duel and be available to help afterwards. She obeys her mother and gets in a hotel car with Campion, who has brought his video camera. Turning off the main road, they approach the golf course where the duel will take place. Campion and Rosemary hide in the shadows of the wood as the duelers and their seconds congregate on the course. Abe counts to three, and the two men fire.

Both shots miss, and though Barban is unsatisfied, Abe convinces him to end the duel. On the way to the car, Mr. McKisco is pleased with himself for having gone through with it, but Abe belittles the achievement because McKisco was drunk.

Later, Rosemary, the Norths, Dick Diver, and two young French musicians are at Voisins, a Paris restaurant. As they wait for Nicole, they watch the other patrons to determine whether or not they have "repose" (p. 51), deciding that Dick may be the only sober reposed man. Though they from different social classes, Nicole, Mary North, and Rosemary are all women who are "happy to exist in a man's world" and who preserve their individuality through the men and not in opposition to them (p. 53).

After lunch, Rosemary goes to a phone booth and schedules a showing of Daddy's Girl at Franco-American films later in the week. When she hangs up the phone, she can hear Dick and Nicole on the other side of a row of coats professing their love and desire and arranging a rendezvous at the hotel at 4:00. Rosemary finds this situation moving, and she thinks of it as she shops with Nicole, finding her to be the most attractive woman she has ever met with her hardness and her elusiveness. Nicole buys lavishly and talks of the past, seeming to forget her 4:00 date with Dick. She finally remembers and gets in a taxi. Rosemary begrudgingly sees her off.

Later, the whole Diver group is walking along World War I trenches. As Dick talks passionately of the war and how it marked the end of a safe world, Rosemary feels painfully and desperately in love with him. She longs to talk with her mother. Dick and Rosemary fall behind as Abe throws pebbles, pretending they are grenades. Seeing a memorial to the Newfoundland dead, Rosemary bursts into tears.

As they start back toward Amiens in the car, Dick spots a girl from Tennessee who has come to lay a memorial on her brother's grave and whom they had met on the train that morning. She is standing uncertainly by the gate, holding a wreath, while her taxi waits. The War Department gave her the wrong grave number, and Dick tells her that she should lay the wreath down on any grave without looking at the name. She does so and accepts Dick's invitation to drive back to Amiens with his group. They sit in an arcade waiting for the train and listening to an orchestra. The Tennessee girl cheers up and flirts with Dick and Abe, who humor her. Rosemary reads battlefield guidebooks on the train ride back to Paris.

Back in Paris, Nicole is too tired to go to the Decorative Art Exhibition, and Rosemary feels an oppressive weight lift in her absence. She sees Nicole as an unpredictable, "incalculable force" (p. 60). Sitting on a houseboat with Dick and the Norths, Rosemary notices that Abe is frequently drunk and that Mary is very quiet. Rosemary drinks a glass of champagne for the first time, hoping that it will somehow bring her closer to Dick, who drinks infrequently. Rosemary confesses that her eighteenth birthday was the previous day, and Dick exclaims that tomorrow night's dinner will be her celebration.

Abe teases Dick that he will have a Broadway score before Dick ever finishes his scientific treatise, and Dick admits (to Mary's surprise and dismay) that he might abandon the project altogether for another one.

In the taxi, Dick Diver reveals to Rosemary that he is a doctor of medicine (though not practicing), and Rosemary reiterates her love for him and Nicole, waiting to be kissed. At first, Dick resists, calling her "such a lovely child" (p. 63). He finally gives in, however, kissing her "breathlessly as if she were any age at all" (p. 63). He does not enjoy it, for he is "chilled by the innocence of her kiss" (p. 64).

Rosemary lures Dick into her room, though she knows he does not love her. She asks him to take her virginity. He assumes a paternal attitude as Rosemary promises that Nicole will not discover his infidelity and that she will never attempt to see Dick again afterwards. He refuses, claiming that she is too young, and he tries to comfort her as she weeps. After attempting to dismiss the entire episode, Dick leaves the room. Rosemary brushes her hair until her arms ache.


This section of the novel dramatically juxtaposes the characters of Dick Diver and Tommy Barban . Tommy Barban reveals himself as something of a barbaric anarchist, always seeking violence and destruction. As he tells Rosemary at the Villa Diana, he is willing to fight in any war at all so long as he is treated well, and he is relentless in his determination to carry out the duel. He is a fierce and ferocious man, both in his protection of Nicole Diver and in his destructive impulses. The fact that he owns a set of dueling pistols reveals a great deal about him and his lifestyle. Instead of being relieved when no one is shot, he insists on continuing with the duel.

Dick, on the other hand, is depicted as Tommy's opposite. His manner is friendly, graceful, and affectionate. He seeks to show people a good time and to be liked by them in everything he does. Furthermore, at the restaurant, he is aptly defined by his "repose." At this point in the novel, he is truly characterized by a personality that puts people at ease. His manners are impeccable; he is the quintessential American gentleman.

The duel is also an important scene for Mr. McKisco in that it marks a major turning point for his character. Until this scene, he has been treated with a certain degree of ridicule and contempt in the narrative. He is a second-rate author whose literary ideas are only bland, unremarkable versions of great works of fiction. His wife sees him as a coward. Abe makes a point of minimizing his sense of courage and accomplishment due to the fact that he was drunk. He has been a man without much honor. This duel, however, sparks a newfound confidence in McKisco, and its effects propel him into a successful literary career.

Fitzgerald continues the theme of violence and battle by introducing the World War I memorial field. Walking along the old battlefield, Dick Diver embodies the tension between the old world that vanished after the war and the new one that has emerged in its place. One element of Dick's downfall seems to be his inability to exist in one world entirely. At the beginning of the novel, he exudes the grace, dignity, and fine manners so closely associated with the old order, yet he occasionally plunges into the liberated and fun-loving mood of postwar Europe. As Dick stands in the trenches, he serves as a link between the death of the old world and the birth of a new one. He mourns this death, complaining that "All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love" (p. 57).

Since a part of Dick's identity is still caught in the sensibilities of prewar society, this part of him conflicts tragically with the part of his identity that is obsessed with the joie de vivre of the 1920s. Indeed, his obsession with youth is one manifestation of his investment in the postwar world. Despite his lifelong commitment to hard work, honor, and scholarly sobriety, he is drawn to the freshness and gaiety of this new lifestyle. The fact that Rosemary (the novel's most potent symbol of the youth, vitality, immaturity, and vacuousness) walks beside Dick as he revisits this past is a sure indication that it is vanishing and being replaced even as he memorializes it. Even the trench itself is "neat" and "restored" (p. 58), suggesting that the old world is truly being made over by the new. Memorials, after all, are provided only for things that are dead and gone and need to be remembered.

Dick, however, is not yet entirely ready to sacrifice his claim to old-war honor for the pleasures of the new, which is one reason why he refuses Rosemary's invitation to seduce her. The immediate reasons, though, involve the age difference and the prospect of infidelity). Consistent with the "paternal interest" (p. 28) that Dick feels for Rosemary at the Villa Diana, he tells her that she is "a lovely child" (p. 63) when she tries to make him kiss her and adds that he "expects to see a gap where [she] lost some baby teeth" (p. 64). He vacillates between sexual interest in the "youth and freshness of her lips" (p. 65) and his "paternal attitude" (p. 64), eventually leaving the room without giving in. Yet this evening is crucial to Dick's downfall, for it reveals his susceptibility to the temptation. Just as his paternal instincts are corrupted by sexual interest, so is his former identity corrupted by the invasion of new-world desires. This corruption serves to contaminate and erode Dick's character over the course of the novel until he is essentially left without any certain identity.