Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 1, Chapters xxi-xxv

Dick realizes that Rosemary must have left the studio already. He calls her at the hotel to explain that he is "in an extraordinary condition" about her and that he wants to see her. When she hangs up the phone, Rosemary returns to writing a letter to her mother about a new director that she is in love with and wants to follow to Hollywood.

Dick calls Nicole at six and asks her to have a quiet dinner and to see a play. Though Nicole harbors detectable resentment, she agrees to go. They knock on Rosemary's door before they leave, but there is no answer and they judge that she is asleep.

Later, Nicole awakens (noticing that Dick is not in his bed) to a sargent-de-ville knocking at her door. He explains that Abe North was robbed in Paris last night and a black man has been arrested for it. Some time later, the office informs Nicole that Mr. Crawshaw, a black man who claims to know the Divers, is there to see Mr. North about Mr. Freeman, the man who is in jail because "there is an injustice" and Mr. Freeman is a "friend to all the world" (p. 97). She goes out to shop with Rosemary, and when they return, Dick is there. He has had a confusing phone conversation with Abe in which it seems that Abe "launched a race riot in Montmartre" (p. 98). He is going to try to free Mr. Freeman from prison. He also mentions a black shoe-polish maker who may show up at the hotel.

Dick indulges in his growing, silent criticism of Nicole, sensing an imminent battle between them. At lunch downstairs, they sit at a table next to a group of Gold Star mothers. Dick reflects on the solemnity of the war and "the whole new world" in which he now, since Rosemary's arrival, believes.

Later, Abe North is at the Ritz Bar. He stays all day, wishing to prolong his state of irresponsibility, though he knows that he should go rescue Freeman from jail. At four in the afternoon, Jules Peterson is announced (he is forbidden from entering the bar because he is black), and Abe goes out to meet him.

Meanwhile, Dick leaves a note for Maria Wallis (signed "Dicole"), walks around town, and recalls Nicole's beauty from earlier that day, which far surpassed Rosemary's. He is frightened by his own passions. He arrives at Rosemary's door, feeling a sense of disappointment with her, and he asks her to sit on his lap and kiss him. He thinks of his responsibility to Nicole. She calls them both actors. There is a knock at the door--it is Abe, with Mr. Peterson of Stockholm. Abe confesses that Mr. Peterson is in trouble and it is Abe's fault. Mr. Peterson had been a legal witness to the theft of Abe's thousand-franc note by a black man, and the two men had falsely identified Mr. Freeman, a "prominent Negro restauranteur" (p. 106). Feeling betrayed, blacks have been after Mr. Peterson all day. Mr. Peterson leaves the room to allow them to discuss the matter. Abe leaves soon after, noting that Mr. Peterson is not in the corridor. He decides to return to the bar and ask Paul about a boat back to America.

After a brief embrace with Dick, Rosemary returns to her room to put on her wristwatch and finish the letter to her mother. Suddenly, she notices a black man lying dead on her bed, screams, and runs back for help from Dick. Dick moves Mr. Peterson's arm and notices blood on the cover. Hearing Nicole's voice in the corridor, Dick opens the door and tells her to bring the couverture and top blanket from their room, ordering her not to become upset. Dick moves the body and strips the bed, trading bundles with Nicole at the door and re-making Rosemary's bed. He infers that Mr. Freeman tracked down and murdered Mr. Peterson, and he knows that unless he does something, the situation will tarnish Rosemary's name and ruin her career as the innocent "Daddy's Girl."

Dick drags the body into the hallway and calls the hotel manager, McBeth, to say that as they were leaving the room, they found a dead body in the corridor. He insists that his name not be tied to the event. McBeth and a gendarme arrive to see the body carried off into another room.

Dick and Rosemary hear horrifying noises coming from the bathroom, where Nicole had gone. There, Nicole is kneeling beside the tub, swaying and talking nonsensically about how Dick has intruded on her only privacy in the world with his blood-stained sheets, and how she always knew he would never love her. Rosemary, realizing that this is what Mrs. McKisco had seen in the bathroom at the party, is relieved when Collis Clay calls to take her out.


The gruesome murder of Jules Peterson is the next incidence of violence in the Divers' lives. Indeed, it almost seems as if the violence has sought them out. Their only real connection to these new violent episodes is Abe North, who was not even supposed to be in Paris anymore, but the events are somehow intimately tied to Dick's relationships with Nicole and Rosemary. Abe and Mr. Peterson arrive at Nicole's door as Dick is visiting her, and the Divers and Rosemary work as a trio in order to clear the body and preclude and conceal any knowledge of the event.

The fresh corpse is found on Rosemary's bed, where she had been sitting on Dick's lap only minutes before. Dick lifts the body to see the blood on the cover, symbolizing the affair that is smeared with gruesome disgrace and is eventually fatal. This section of the book documents not only the death of Jules Peterson, but also symbolically that of Dick's former self and of his marriage with Nicole.

This event also marks Nicole's major relapse, which counterintuitively provides the foundation for her complete recovery. It is a kind of cathartic experience. Following the removal of the dead body, Dick and Rosemary find Nicole sitting and swaying on the bathroom floor (a scene that is presumably very similar to that which Violet McKisco saw at the party). Here, as Nicole speaks incomprehensibly about wanting Dick to leave her in privacy and about how he never loved her, Rosemary finally has insight into Nicole's mental illness and the true nature of the relationship between the Divers. She has suspected that their relationship more closely resembled her own relationship with her mother (another glance at the incest-motif) than a relationship between lovers, and this scene provides the first explicit evidence that Dick's role in Nicole's life exceeds that of a husband. He is her psychiatrist, her caretaker, and, symbolically, her father.

The circumstances surrounding Mr. Peterson's death also implicate Abe North's lifestyle; it is guilty and villianous. Nicole reflects aptly upon Abe's alcoholism, wondering why he has allowed this addiction to erode the healthy pathways of his life--he used to be "so nice." It was most likely his state of intoxication that made him unable to properly identify the man who stole his wallet and which, thus, indirectly caused the murder. He has become completely irresponsible and unable to cope with the demands of his life. The growing evidence for this claim includes the fact that he spends the entire day after the incident in a bar, not wanting to face its reality. Alcohol is also closely tied to Dick's downfall. For him it will lead to violence, imprisonment, and the loss of his career. The novel's point about the association between alcoholism and human decline is evident, and it expresses the larger theme of the recklessness of the gaiety of Jazz Age society.