Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 2, Chapters vi-x

Dick next sees Nicole at a luncheon in Zurich in May. He knows that the logical thing to do is to stay away from her, but he is jealous when other men show interest. She is growing in confidence, and he wants to help her feel independent and secure. Dick is again established at Zurich and is working to publish his pamphlet, "A Psychology for Psychiatrists." Franz does not agree with this decision, but Dick wants to make something of his ideas and not squander them. He admits he entered this profession only because he was interested in an Oxford girl who attended the psychology classes.

Franz warns Dick that Nicole is in love with him. They go to Doctor Dohmler's office to ask for his counsel on the matter. He asserts that this "transference" must be terminated and that Nicole is in no condition to suffer a heartbreak. They speak of sending Nicole away before Dick finally admits that he is "half in love with her" (p. 140) and has considered marrying her. Franz disapprovingly exclaims that he would devote half of his life to being "doctor and nurse and all" (p. 140) and that the marriage would be doomed from the start. Dr. Dohmler agrees.

They agree that Dick must gently eliminate himself from Nicole's life. Dick walks out into the rain and finds her immediately, and they discuss the trip that she will take with her sister, Beth (whom everyone calls Baby). Dick is enchanted by her face, which seems to promise eternal youth and beauty. She leads him to a covered woodshed, and Dick encourages her to forget the past, go back to America, and fall in love. Nicole's hopes are dashed, and she becomes upset. She avoids the temptation to entice him with her money and starts back to the clinic with Dick walking beside her.

Dick decides to finish the break after supper, but Nicole sends a message down with a nurse that she would like to be excused from dinner. Dick leaves a note for Franz excusing himself and walks to the tram station. Expecting to hear from her the next day, he calls Franz and learns that she understood his intentions.

Over the following weeks, Dick feels dissatisfied and guilty about the situation. He sees Nicole with Baby in a Rolls Royce in front of the Palace hotel and walks by without speaking to her. Realizing how much he feels for her, he distracts himself with an old flame and by working harder. On a trip up in a mountain-climbing car, Nicole and a young Latin man enter the rear compartment, where Dick is sitting. Nicole greets Dick and introduces the man, the Conte de Marmora. Her hair is shorter, and Dick notices that there is no remaining trace of the clinic. They discover that they are both bound for Caux, but Dick resolves to stay at a different hotel for fear of tarnishing her new levity and happiness by reminding her of the past.

When the funicular stops, Nicole follows Dick to get his bicycle. She invites him to their hotel for dinner. She introduces him to the "formidable and vulnerable" (p. 150) Baby Warren, and Dick promises to drop in after dinner. Back at his hotel, Dick is entirely flustered by the resurgence of his feelings and by the realization of how much Nicole loves him.

Nicole, Baby, and Marmora (whose family fortune is entwined with the Warren fortune) await Dick in the hotel salon. When he arrives, Baby takes an immediate interest in him, expressing her concern about being able to distinguish between normal and crazy behavior in Nicole. Baby begins to explain her plan to have Nicole marry a doctor from the South Side of Chicago (to "buy" Nicole a doctor, according to Dick).

Baby is uneasy when she discovers that Nicole has gone off, and Dick offers to look for her. Nicole is outside overlooking the lake, and she explains that she is used to a quieter lifestyle. When Dick avoids addressing the situation between them and his feelings for her, Nicole boldly confronts him with an assertion that she has common sense and understands the dynamic between them. She suggests that, had she not been sick, Dick would have been interested in marrying her. She demands that he give her a chance and, when she kisses him suddenly, he surrenders to her. They run back to the hotel as a storm breaks, and Baby sends Dick back to his hotel to change.

The next morning, Dick returns to his room after mountain climbing to find two notes. One is from Nicole expressing how happy she is about the previous night. The other is from Baby Warren, stating that she must hurry back to Paris and requesting that Dick allow Nicole to ride with him back to the sanitarium in Zurich. Dick is furious, assuming that she intends to buy him as Nicole's doctor-husband (when, in fact, she found Dick too intellectual and stubborn). Nevertheless, the train ride together solidifies their relationship. When Dick drops her off at Zurichsee, "he knew her problem was one they had together for good now" (p. 157). Nicole objects to Dick's stated intention to marry Nicole, claiming that he is still too unfamiliar to the family. They do marry, however.

The following section of the novel presents the passage of time and the developments in Dick and Nicole's relationship through a combination of conversation bits and journal entries from Nicole's point of view. She inherits far more money from her family's estate than she needs or has expected, making it clear that Dick does not want any of her money. She loves being with Dick, but she can tell when he is emotionally distant. Nicole gets pregnant and convinces Dick to partake in the Warren money so that they can buy themselves a bigger apartment. When Topsy, their second child, is born, Nicole suffers a relapse. Nicole once again uses her money to buy them a house on the French Riviera, where they can be "brown and young together" (p. 161). Uncharacteristically, Dick registers them as Mr. (not Dr.) and Mrs. Diver.

In the final part of this section, Nicole is writing a journal entry on the beach about how she is starting to feel better (though her writing betrays that she is still unstable) and about how Tommy Barban is in love with her. It brings the reader right to the moment that begins the book, with the Divers, Abe, and Tommy on the beach and Rosemary being spotted for the first time.


At the end of the book, when Nicole will recover and choose Tommy Barban over Dick and their marriage, she will suspect that Dick has anticipated this conclusion (and has, in fact, even planned it) from the very beginning of their relationship. There is some evidence that Dick is at least unconsciously doing so; critics sometimes argue that Fitzgerald makes us aware of the informed decisions that result in Dick's emotional and professional demise. He senses that she is a "waif of disaster" (p. 136), yet he is drawn to her, largely because of his desire to be loved. She "brings everything to his feet, gifts of sacrificial ambrosia, or worshipping myrtle" (p. 137). She offers herself to him completely and adores him entirely, and this puts strain on Dick's weak points.

In addition to Dick's desire to be loved, however, Dick continues in his active desire to help Nicole. Although he has been largely responsible for her steady improvement, he tries "honestly to divorce her from any obsession that he had stitched her together--glad to see her build up happiness and confidence apart from him" (p. 137). He is concerned with her sense of independence and autonomy, and though this concern betrays a power imbalance between the two of them (ironically, Dick regulates Nicole's sense of autonomy), it also provides insight into Dick's motivations and intentions. He wants to help Nicole, and he is very motivated by the doctorly feelings that guide his relationship.

Because of these feelings, in part, and because Franz and Dohmler forcefully warn Dick about the inevitable outcome of a marriage with Nicole, the novel suggests that Dick always knew that the marriage would come to its tragic end. When he admits to the doctors that he is "half in love with her" (p. 140) after trying to stay away from her for several weeks, Franz exclains that by being "doctor and nurse and all," he would be starting a marriage that would be "finished in the first push" (p. 140). Dohmler agrees that this would be the unavoidable conclusion, and Dick seems to understand. Yet, Dick cannot deny his feelings any longer when Nicole kisses him, and when he drops her off at the Zurichsee clinic, he knows "her problem was one they had together for good now" (p. 157). This sentence bears an ominous and foreboding tone. Indeed, Dick carries this problem in the form of his ruined existence even long after Nicole is no longer his wife.

In addition to his compulsive need to be loved, the description of Dick's growing love for Nicole again highlights his attraction to youth and the similarities between this relationship and his romance with Rosemary. He is "older enough than Nicole to take pleasure in her youthful vanities and delights" (p. 137), and he finds her face "reminiscent of the fram of a promising colt--a creature whose life did not promise to be only a projection of youth upon a grayer screen, but instead, a true growing" (p. 141). When he kisses her, he surrenders to her "young lips" (p. 155) and falls completely in love with her. His relationship with Nicole, then, sets a precedent for his future fixation on young women. He is already significantly older than Nicole, and he is attracted to her sense of youthful promise. To consider also the religious imagery associated with Nicole's love for Dick and establishing himself as a kind of divinity or priest for her (with the "gifts of sacrificial ambrosia and the worshipping myrtle"), Dick takes on a different Father role for Nicole, thereby presenting a more complicated iteration of the incest motif.

These chapters also introduce the reader to the world and the dangers of the Warren wealth. Baby Warren is entirely direct about her intention to buy a Chicago doctor-husband for Nicole, and Dick is taken aback by the inhumanity of this plan. When Baby sends him a note requesting that he take Nicole back to the clinic, Dick is furious, because he senses the force with which the Warrens wield their financial powers and use people as mere conveniences and means to various ends. Although Nicole initially avoids using her money as power (when Dick attempts to break off ties with her at Zurichsee, she fights an urge to entice him with her money), she eventually ignores Dick's stated desire not to live on her money and persuades him to use it to buy a nicer house and, eventually, the Villa Diana. From these chapters, it is clear that Dick is a victim not only of himself and his instinctive desires for adoration and youth, but also of the Warren wealth, which slowly and surely claims ownership of his life.