Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 1, Chapters xvi-xx

In the morning, Rosemary receives a letter from Mrs. Speers announcing the presence of Collis Clay, the boy who took Rosemary to the Yale prom the previous year. As they shop, Rosemary admires Nicole's great beauty and feels uncharacteristically jealous. Nicole talks of her childhood winter spent in a small, dingy hotel, revealing her family's great emphasis on the benefits of wealth.

Nicole and Rosemary meet the others for lunch at the Norths' apartment, and Rosemary senses that Dick is falling in love with her. After lunch, they go to the Franco-American Films for the screening of Daddy's Girl, where they meet up with Collis Clay. Rosemary sits between Dick and Collis, rubbing shoulders with Dick in the dark. Rosemary appears on the screen, "so young and innocent" and "embodying all the immaturity of the race" (pp. 68-69).

After the film, Rosemary announces that she has arranged a screen test for Dick. He declines the offer, stating that such a thing would be inappropriate for a scientist such as himself. Nicole and the Norths decide not to attend tea, and Dick and Rosemary drop off Collis Clay at his hotel. Dick must first stop by a different house as a favor to a friend and, warning Rosemary that she will not like the people at the party, he assures her that they will only stay five minutes.

Once inside the house, Rosemary has the feeling of being on a movie set. There are two groups of guests present: the volatile Americans and English and the serious "exploiters" (p. 72). As Rosemary is speaking with one girl, she overhears three young women speaking to each other on the other side of the room about the Divers and their "entourage" (p. 73), claiming that "they give a good show" (p. 72) and expressing their dislike of Nicole and Abe North. Rosemary returns their subsequent stare with a defiant acknowledgment that she is privy to their malice. She approaches Dick, who has been speaking with the American hostess. They leave the party and, in the taxi, Dick confesses to being in love with her. They passionately kiss.

The raw innocence of their love quickly fades, and Dick reminds Rosemary that he must not hurt Nicole and that he and Nicole must remain together. Rosemary accepts this position, though she feels that the love between the Divers more closely resembles her relationship with her mother than a true romance. Dick tells her that Nicole is not very strong and that the relationship is complicated, though their love is real. They reach the hotel and kiss each other in the stairwell, parting reluctantly. Rosemary runs to her room to write a letter to her mother, whom she now does not miss.

Later, Dick throws a party full of excitement and frenzy. Comparing Dick to the others, Rosemary is certain that he is the nicest, most enthusiastic, and most selfless, giving a piece of himself to everybody. They dance and cling to each other. Abe North pretends to be General Pershing, tricking the waiters into setting a table for him. Mary North insists to Rosemary that she simply must get Abe home so that he will make his 11:00 train, and Rosemary promises to help convince him. Dick approaches Rosemary to invite her to leave with him and Nicole and, when she explains that she must stay to help with Abe, he tells her that she "can't do anything about people" (p. 78). Riding back in a carrot wagon with Collis Clay and the Norths, Rosemary wishes she were with Dick. On the way home, Rosemary sees a horse-chestnut tree in full bloom strapped to a truck. It reminds her of "a lovely person in an undignified position yet confident none the less of being lovely" (p. 79), and she identifies with it.

Later, Abe stands under a glass dome in the Paris train station waiting for Nicole, where he asked her to meet him. When she arrives, Abe tells he that he is tired of both of the Divers, and she expresses her disapproval of him giving up on everything. He tells her that he got bored. They sit in silence. Abe has been in love with Nicole. She reprimands him for being an alcoholic, claiming that it tears him apart. He is dangerously and undeniably addicted.

When Rosemary, Mary North, and Dick arrive, Abe boards the train. Suddenly, Nicole directs Dick's attention to a scene on the platform. A girl Nicole knows runs away from the man to whom she is talking, pulls a revolver from her purse, and shoots him. The train stops, and Dick runs to the scene to offer assistance. Minutes later, the man is brought away on a stretcher, while the girl is taken off by gendarmes.

Dick announces that Maria Wallis shot an Englishman through his identification card. Dick, who also knows Maria, starts off toward the police office to assist and protect Maria, but Nicole insists on calling Laura Wallis first. Though they leave the station behaving as though nothing had happened, they all feel the effects of the afternoon. With Abe's departure, Mary's imminent departure, and "echoes of violence" (p. 85), they feel vaguely unhappy.

Dick Diver feels "profoundly unhappy" (p. 86) during luncheon at the Luxembourg Gardens. First Mary North leaves and then Rosemary does, asking them to leave a message with Collis Clay to call her the following day. As Dick and Nicole sit in silence, he notices a "flash of unhappiness on her mouth" (p. 87) and wonders what she thinks of his relationship with Rosemary.

Nicole leaves when Collis arrives, leaving the two men to talk. Collis recounts an incident between Rosemary and Bill Hillis, a boy from Yale. On a train from New York to Chicago, they were caught by the conductor in Collis's compartment with the door locked and the blinds down. Dick feels despairingly jealous, and he is plagued by the relentless idea of the boy asking Rosemary if he can pull down the curtain and her acquiescing.

Dick picks up his mail, unhappily presents a check to Casasus to authorize, leaves the bank, and goes to the Par Excellence Studio to meet Rosemary. He waits for her outside, knowing that this marks "a turning point in his life" (p. 91).


Incest is a pervasive motif in Tender is the Night. The first and only actual incidence of incest occurs between Nicole and Devereux Warren. When he brings Nicole to Dohmler's clinic, he explains how close they had become after her mother's death. He describes how "all at once [they] were lovers" (p. 129), revealing that the cause of Nicole's schizophrenia is the trauma that she suffered from her father's molestation. Though this piece of the Diver history is not disclosed until the middle of the book, it provides a lens through which to view not only Dick's relationship with Nicole, but also Dick's relationship with Rosemary.

Rosemary's youth and immaturity have been emphasized from the beginning, and the fact that she had a starring role in the movie Daddy's Girlprovides a clear and direct parallel to her relationship with Dick. Dick essentially falls in love with her at the theater, watching her play "the school girl of a year ago, hair down her back and rippling out stiffly...; there she was--so young and innocent--the product of her mother's loving care; there she was--embodying all the immaturity of the race" (p. 69). In light of the paternal interest that Dick has henceforth shown in Rosemary, his attraction to her childishness certainly evokes the incest motif. This connection is more explicitly made at the end of the film, duing "a lovely shot of Rosemary and her parent united at the last in a father complex so apparent that Dick winced for all psychologists at the vicious sentimentality" (p. 69). The implication here is that the film mirrors the incestuous relationsip that Nicole had with her own father. Dick, as the father substitute and lover of two women who have lost their fathers, develops relationships with both of them, and both have incestuous overtones.

It is not only the vibrancy and sensuality of Rosemary's youth that attracts Dick. She is also a representative of her time, in all of its reckless immaturity. As Nicole notices toward the end of the novel, the Jazz Age marked a particular obsession with youth. Because it was an era defined by its attempt to dispose of the social code and replace it with something more fresh and vibrant, American youth became symbolic of the postwar revelry. Thus began a fixation on the ways of the young. Rosemary is not only the specific object of Dick's affection for young women, but she is also the object of a culture's obsession for the fresh and the new.

The romance between Dick and Rosemary also documents (and contributes to) Dick's steady decline into a state of immaturity and ineffectiveness. They are portrayed almost as adolescents who share nothing deeper than puppy love, kissing in the stairwell and separating with fingers touching, stretching as long and far as they can. At this point, their affair is naïve and unconsummated. It also produces a devastating jealousy in Dick which also illuminates the deterioration of his maturity and reason. When Collis Clay mentions that Nicole was intimate with another boy, Dick is plagued by haunting and persistent thoughts. He imagines the boy asking Rosemary if he can pull down the shade in the train cabin, and this line creeps into Dick's consciousness incessantly throughout the rest of the novel. It becomes an abstract fixation that both causes and proves his continual decline.

This deterioration, however, does not only take place in Dick's mind, but in his entire world. Before Rosemary's arrival, days on the Riviera were calm and pleasant. With the beginning of their relationship, violence begins to erupt all around Dick. The murder committed by Maria Wallis that takes place in Paris is just one example of the way that Dick's decline is reflected in the space that he occupies.

On the other hand, perhaps the disease originates within the society, and Dick is primarily a victim of it who insensibly goes along with it. Either way, as he stands and waits outside of Rosemary's film studio, he is aware that his behavior marks "a turning point in his life," being "out of line with everything that had preceeded it" (p. 91). All of his "correctness" (p. 91) and dignity is slowly being contaminated by his desire for la joie de vivre.