Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 2, Chapters xi-xiii

Dick and Mrs. Speers sit in a café talking. It is August, after the return from that turmoil-ridden trip to France. Mrs. Speers expresses regret that Nicole was disturbed by the situation and tells Dick that he is the first man Rosemary ever cared for. He tells Mrs. Speers that he is in love with her daughter, already mourning Rosemary's absence.

Back at the Villa Diana, he goes to his workroom and lays out the materials for his book, realizing that he is already out of good new ideas. He is suddenly resentful of Nicole's money and the lifestyle that it imposes on him, and he realizes that he is very doubtful of the plan that he has had for his book. He takes a drink of gin.

When he sees Nicole in the garden, he is overcome by a "leaden feeling" (p. 166), for he has been keeping up a front for her since Paris. On the train, he avoided her stare and sensed that, though she was suspicious, she was glad to have him to herself again. At lunch, he drinks almost an entire bottle of wine and they talk, but back in the compartment, Nicole begins to discuss Rosemary. Nicole compliments Rosemary's looks and talent, but Dick contradicts her in order to pretend that he does not love and admire her. Dick cannot banish his feelings for Rosemary, and he feels annoyed with Nicole for not being able to take better care of herself. He fears that her breakdown in Paris may be an indication of a new cycle of her disease.

He later goes to Nicole in the garden and tells her that he ran into Mrs. Speers and Bartholomew Tailor while he was in Cannes. Dick wants to be alone, which Nicole can discern, and she feels a confusing combination of hatred and desperate love. Dick enters the house and sits down at the piano, playing "Tea for Two and Two for Tea." He stops abruptly when he realizes that Nicole might recognize his nostalgia for the past few weeks. Dick feels uncomfortable in his own house, for it stands as a symbol of how Nicole's money has stripped him of his financial and general independence. He has felt that "his work became confused with Nicole's problems" (p. 170), and he feels that he has been living falsely and restrainedly.

In December, when Nicole and the relationship seem to have recovered, the Divers go to the Swiss Alps for the Christmas holidays. The Divers and Baby Warren (accompanied by two British men) attend a tea dance in a hall on the ski slopes in Gstaad. Nicole urges Dick to enjoy himself, and Dick avoids looking at young maidens for fear of upsetting Nicole. Baby begins to discuss investing the huge sums of money that she has gotten for selling her mother's property, but Dick leaves to retrieve Franz from the station.

Franz arrives and, at the dinner table, he tells Dick of the business plan that has brought him here. He wants to take Braun, an old clinic on the Zugersee, and manage it with Dick. Dick can tell that Baby is listening as Franz explains that Dick could spend half the year in residence and the other half writing, and that the atmosphere would be good for Nicole. Franz explains, however, that buying the clinic would cost them $220,000. Baby, who believes it will help Nicole to be near the clinic, offers to buy the clinic with Warren money. Dick is disturbed by this, realizing that the Warrens will have essentially bought his independence, and he resents Baby's "cold, rich insolence" (p. 177).

Later at the grill, Dick finds that a young woman who captivated him earlier now suddenly appears "devitalized" and "uninteresting" (p. 179). On her way to bed, Nicole admits that she likes the clinic idea and, two days later, as he accompanies Franz to the station, Dick concedes.


Dick becomes increasingly resentful of the Warrens' money and the ways it has determined important aspects of his life. Sitting in his workroom in the Villa Diana, he feels "a growing luxury in which the Divers lived, and the need for display which apparently went along with it" (p. 165). He resents his own house, "the house that Nicole had made, that Nicole's grandfather had paid for. He owned only his work house and the ground on which it stood... Never had a move been contemplated without Dick's figuring his share" (p. 170). He tries to maintain a "qualified independence," but "it was difficult" because Nicole wants "to own him" and wants him to "stand still forever" (p. 170). These thoughts reveal a deep dissatisfaction and contempt that has been building in Dick and has come to the fore since meeting Rosemary. The final straw, of course, is Baby Warren's interference in the business plans that Franz suggests. She encourages Bill to enter the partnership and start the clinic with Franz because she believes that this is best for Nicole. Nicole also encourages the decision, and when Baby offers to pay for the clinic herself, the deal is done. Dick ultimately surrenders and surrenders himself to the corrosive authority of the money.

Not surprisingly, it is also at this time that Dick begins to seriously and noticeably unravel. The novel makes brief but personal references to Dick's increasingly frequent drinking habits, recording the gin that he drinks in his workroom and the bottle of wine that he has with lunch. Dick has never been a heavy drinker, but now alcohol has become an undeniably strong presence in his life. His obsession with Rosemary's train tryst and his growing frustration with Nicole and her illness also chronicle his steady decline.

Perhaps most telling, however, is his pervasive obsession with young girls. Nicole notices this pattern and makes a snide remark about how he should dance with the "ickle durls" (p. 172), meaning little girls, and Dick must pretend not to look at them for fear of making her suspicious. But he actually is drawn to all of the younger girls, who have faces bearing the "innocent expectation of the possibilities inherent" in the situation (p. 174). As he loses his independence and his hopes for true intellectual greatness, Dick relaxes some of the discipline and self-control that have guided him and surrenders to some of his more dishonorable and dangerous impulses. This eros is not merely sexual; the "possibilities" with which he is infatuated include the great achievements still to come in these young people's lives, the achievements that no longer seem within his own grasp except vicariously through the young people he covets.