Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 2, Chapters xix-xxiii

Dick brings his father from Buffalo to Westmoreland County, Virginia, to bury him among his relatives. Dick feels all of these family ties breaking. He speaks a final farewell: "Good-by, my father-good-by, all my fathers" (p. 205).

On the ship back to Europe, Dick runs into Albert McKisco, who is being hailed as a talented writer whose works "were pastiches of the best people of his time" (p. 205). Dick enjoys talking to him and Violet, finding that this success and confidence has changed them for the better. At the hotel in Rome, he sees Rosemary (who is there making a movie), and she approaches him. He is overcome yet again by her youth and beauty, and he tries to distract her from his unkempt exhaustion. She tells him to phone her at two the next day.

The next day, he thinks of Rosemary and compares her youthful energy to that of his daughter, Topsy. He wants her but is afraid that she will notice his "lesion of enthusiasm" (p. 208). At three, he calls Rosemary and is instructed to come to her room. He stops at the bar for a drink first and runs into Collis Clay, who is up from Florence to see Rosemary as well.

Rosemary is wearing black pajamas when Dick enters the room, and she asks after Nicole and the children. After several telephone interruptions, she "lowers the lights for love" (p. 210), and they kiss passionately. After another phone call, they move to her bed and continue their tryst, but Rosemary tells him that they cannot make love now because of her menstrual cycle. He asks her if she is a virgin and she suggests that she is, but he does not believe her. They go for a walk and she cavorts "childishly" for Dick (p. 211). She tells him that she has other plans for the night, but that she will take him to see the movie set the next morning.

In the morning, Rosemary glows "fresh and new in the morning sunshine" (p. 212), and they go to the set, where everything is dramatic and turbulent. Someone mistakes Dick for an actor, and a male actor named Nicotera follows Rosemary to the car and whispers something to her. At lunch, Dick drinks enough "so that his feeling of dissatisfaction" leaves him. Back at the hotel, the intimacy that had "begun with a childish infatuation" (p. 213) is finally consummated.

At night, Nicole has another dinner date, so Dick begrudgingly has a cocktail with Collis Clay. He realizes that his affair with Rosemary is simply indulgence and that Nicole is still "his girl" (p. 213). He runs into Baby Warren, and they dine together. At her prompting, Dick explains some of the trouble that Nicole has been having, and Baby suggests that a change (perhaps moving to London) might be good for her. Dick dismisses this idea. Collis Clay then joins them. When Dick speculates that he might have been the wrong person for Nicole, Baby assures him that they can arrange for her to marry someone else, not considering the possibility that Dick actually loves Nicole and has not been acting merely out of duty.

The next day, Dick's passion for Rosemary is heightened by the realization that they do not love each other. After Nicotera leaves and Nicole ends her phone conversation, Dick questions her about her love life again, suggesting that she has had many lovers. Nicotera calls Dick's room to reach Rosemary, and Dick, with extreme jealousy, realizes that they are lovers, too. Rosemary tries to assuage his fury, promising him that although she must leave with the company tomorrow, she will stay with Dick tonight. Dick is not appeased. Rosemary gets up to leave. Dick describes himself as the "Black Death" (p. 219), because he is unable to make people happy anymore.

After dinner, Dick sits in a bar talking to Collis Clay and making intentionally offensive remarks about Italians. As they walk toward the American Express, Dick realizes that "Rome was the end of his dream of Rosemary" (p. 220), and he subsequently is handed a note from her stating that she did not go to the party and that she is in her room. He tells the bellboy to lie and say that he could not find Dick. Dick goes to the Bonbonieri and feels sapped by Collis's lifelessness.

Dick gets drunk and starts a fight with the orchestra leader. He then approaches a pretty, young English girl and dances with her. He gets progressively drunk and makes a fool of himself after Collis leaves, almost walking into the ladies' room to find the girl, who has disappeared.

He decides to go back to the hotel but refuses to pay the taxi driver the full fare, arguing for a reduced rate. "The passionate impatience of the week" (p. 224) fires up in Dick, and he slaps the taxi driver's face. He is surrounded and fights ineffectually until the men decide to settle it at the police office. An officer orders Dick to pay the full fare, but Dick merely punches the driver in the jaw. He is beaten to unconsciousness and awakes with handcuffs on and being unable to open an eye. He offers a taxi driver two hundred lire to go to Baby's hotel and summon her aid. He is put in a jail cell.

A little before four in the morning, the concierge wakes Baby Warren and explains that Dick is in jail and terribly hurt. Baby gets in a cab and goes to the prison, where she finds him by the sound of his screaming. He tells her that they beat him and put out his eye, and Baby screams at the two guards.

Baby takes a taxi to the American Embassy and, after ringing the bell, is met by a sleepy porter who informs her that no one is awake--she must return at nine. She argues with him until another man appears and asks about the commotion. Baby cries for him to come to the prison and get Dick out immediately, but he tells her that if she wants Dick's protection, she must go to the Consulate at nine. He gives her the address, but when Baby arrives there, it is empty. Baby tries to get back to the jail but gets lost along the way. She decides to enlist Collis Clay in her mission. She wakes him up and, together, they find the address of the jail and go there.

Collis stays with Dick while Baby goes to the Consul and then to call a doctor. At the Consulate's office, she becomes impatient with waiting and pushes in to speak with the Consul, threatening that she will use her power against him if he does not help. Baby wins with her demanding insistence, and the vice-consul, Mr. Swanson, is sent with her.

At the prison, Dick drinks a beer and waits. He feels a "vast criminal irresponsibility" (p. 233) and knows that he will never be the same again. Swanson appears and tells Dick that he will probably be able to get him out of jail, but he also warns him to be careful. As Dick waits for the Consulate to settle matters with the judge, he is mistaken for a man convicted of raping and slaying a five-year-old girl. Within minutes, however, Dick is freed. He returns to the hotel with Baby and the doctor for treatment. Baby is satisfied with Dick's new moral inferiority, for it gives her even more power over him.


The death of Dick's father truly marks the death of Dick's former self and former life. He is distraught when he receives the telegram. His father had been his moral guide and had taught him to live by noble values. During his heroic years, Dick met these standards and lived his life admirably. Following this loss, Dick deteriorates more rapidly. He abandons his good instincts and gives into all of his dishonorable ones, such as alcohol, seduction, and violence. He becomes extremely self-destructive and loses all of the control and discipline that made his former success possible. Dick's marriage to Nicole and his affair with Rosemary progressively weakened the supports that held up his castle of reason, dignity, and honor. The death of his father, however, symbolizes the complete collapse of the very foundation upon which this castle was built. The floodgates have been entirely destroyed, and Dick no longer has the strength or the will to be "as good as he had intended to be" (p. 204).

This death is also symbolic of the end of the old world that Dick has been trying to embody and to save in spite of his new-world temptations. Dick's father represented everything that was honorable about the prewar sensibility and mentality. Dick mourns the loss of this world, which he makes clear at the visit to the trenches, and the death of this world results necessarily from and is facilitated by the anarchy of postwar society. As Dick stands at the grave, he feels his ties to his family and his entire past break, and his final farewell addresses both a person and an era: "Good by, my father--good-by, all my fathers" (p. 205). This is Dick's farewell to the last connection to his former self.

His extremely uncharacteristic behavior in Rome is a testament to this assertion. The next example of Dick's irrevocable decline is the consummation of his affair with Rosemary back in Rome. When he sees her, he is attracted once again to her beauty and youth. He even compares her to his own daughter: "She was young and magnetic, but so was Topsy" (p. 207). This reflection highlights both the age difference between Dick and Rosemary (he is indeed old enough to be her father) and the incestuous perversion that has entered his diseased mind. In addition, he is now so dependent on alcohol that he must stop at the bar even on his way from his room to Rosemary's. In her bed, Dick bears up "her fragility on his arms until she [is] poised half a foot above him" (p. 211), which is an extremely paternal gesture. She cavorts "childishly" for him (p. 211), and when they finally do have sex, Rosemary's youth and innocence are further emphasized by the assertion that she has been, until now, a virgin. In the first section of the novel, Dick refused to sleep with Rosemary, believing her to be too young for him. Yet his paternal interest in her was always contaminated by a shameful sexual interest, and now that all of Dick's ties to his former honor and discipline are cut, he allows himself to indulge in his own self-destruction.

Dick's indulgence also extends to violence and criminality when he is overcome by an immature jealousy of Nicotera and, in a sort of tantrum, drinks himself and fights himself into an Italian jail. He lets himself become belligerent, starting a fight with the orchestra master at a club and then another with a taxi driver, and then continues in that vein until he is beaten unconscious and thrown in jail. The Lucky Dick of Yale and Oxford could hardly have conceived of being in this situation, and this contrast highlights how very far Dick Diver has fallen. He has relinquished all dignity and self-control.

Moreover, he no longer has the strength or integrity to deny the help of Baby Warren. In fact, he relies upon her to have him freed from jail, and this position absolutely thrills her. She realizes that the Warren domination over Dick is now complete. Not only does she have the financial superiority, but now she also has the moral superiority in the relationship.

Fitzgerald's treatment of Baby Warren's wealth, as well as the power that accompanies it, is not celebratory. Baby has been somewhat of a villain from the start. She and her wealth have contributed to the demise of Dick's independence and to his eventual downfall, and here we see that even while she is being helpful to Dick, she is inwardly celebrating her conniving and inhuman authority. The criticism of wealth and power also extends to the scene at the American Embassy. The indifference of the ridiculous-looking man in the Persian robe and the pink cold cream, combined with his indifference and his unwillingness to provide assistance, presents a damning portrait of the upper class. Even Dick's privileges have not saved him from himself.