Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night Summary and Analysis of Book 3, Chapters vi-xiii

In the morning, Dick apologizes to Nicole for his behavior. She believes that "his awful faculty of being right seemed to have deserted him at last" (p. 275). Dick and Tommy argue about Nicole, and she derives a sense of satisfaction from knowing that they are both in love with her. She considers having an affair with Tommy and, as he is about to leave, Nicole goes to get him a jar of camphor rub to cure Tommy's cough. Dick instructs Nicole not to give Tommy the whole jar, which must be ordered from Paris, but Nicole gives it to him anyway, and this gesture signifies "the sin she had committed" (p. 279) and the end of the Divers as a couple.

In June, the Divers receive a note from Rosemary stating that she will be at Gausse's the next day and wants to see them. On that morning, Nicole is full of apprehension about the future of her relationship with Dick. She senses the imminence of a leap from her secure foothold, and she feels that both she and Dick are changing, but she still senses that they are as yet undefined. His indifference is apparent in his insincerity and drinking habits. She feels a sense of relief when she considers being independent of him. Nicole feels sorry for Dick as he looks around the beach "like a deposed ruler secretly visiting an old court" (p. 280). Rosemary is in the water, and they swim out to meet her. As Dick and Rosemary begin to flatter and flirt, Nicole swims back to shore (registering that she is returning to stable ground and leaving him afloat with his desires).

They decide to go aquaplaning with Nicole and her friends, and Nicole suspects that Dick will not be able to accomplish the same stunts that he used to. Trying to show off for Rosemary, he tries to do a trick in which he lifts another man on his shoulders as he is pulled behind the boat. He tries three times, his failures becoming progressively more humiliating. Nicole is annoyed and full of contempt for his showing off. Later, Dick confesses to Rosemary that he changed a while back--saying despairingly that "the manner remains intact for some time after the morale breaks" (p. 285).

They see Mary North, who practically ignores the Divers when she goes to speak with Rosemary. Rosemary recalls that Dick's public reputation has been demolished and, as she speaks to him about acting, she notices that Nicole is becoming impatient. Finally, Nicole leaves and says she will send someone to pick up Dick and the children. Alone in the car, Nicole feels confident and cured. She feels "almost complete." "Knowing vaguely that Dick had planned for her to have it" (p. 289), she writes a provocative letter to Tommy when she arrives at home. The next morning, Dick goes to Provence for a few days by himself, and when Tommy calls to say that he is coming over, Nicole welcomes him.

Nicole gets ready for Tommy, making "her person into the trimmest of gardens" (p. 291) and noticing how young-looking and beautiful she still is. She is conscious of wanting to have an affair and, more abstractly, of wanting to act on impulse and desire. When Tommy arrives, they hold and kiss each other and decide to spend the afternoon passionately in a hotel in Corniche.

After they have made love, they see an American ship leaving and the girls on shore waving goodbye. They dine, swim, and make love again, and Nicole can feel her old, true self emerging as Dick's influence dissolves. They leave in the middle of the night to get Nicole back to the Villa Diana before daybreak.

Dick returns home, admitting to Nicole that he spent the night with Rosemary. Meanwhile, she admits to him that she spent the night with Tommy. Tommy calls and urges Nicole to leave Dick, but she postpones the decision. She is suddenly burdened by remorse and goes out to his sanctuary. She stands and watches him, feeling truly sorry for him and wondering whether he had planned and willed her independence. She approaches him tenderly, but he insults her, provoking her to accuse him of trying to blame his failure of a life on her. She recalls the resentments of the past decade and, within a matter of minutes, is finally truly free of him. She has "cut the cord forever," and Dick is aware that "The case is finished" (p. 302).

Dick receives a phone call in the middle of the night from the police in Antibes stating that Mary North and Caroline Sibley-Biers are in jail for dressing as French sailors and picking up two young women. Dick, though he does not like either woman, runs off (picking up Gausse along the way) to help them and protect their reputations. The matter is complicated by the fact that one of the girls was from a respectable family, and the infuriated family is demanding money. Dick consults the chief of police. He lies to the chief and offers him five thousand dollars with which to appease the families. The women are quickly released.

Later, Nicole and Dick are having their hair cut when Tommy enters the barber shop and asks to speak to them both. In a café, Tommy tells Dick that Nicole no longer loves him, that their marriage is over, and that Nicole and Tommy wish to be together. Nicole confirms this, and Tommy accuses Dick of treating her like a patient. As they negotiate the web of their relationships, the Tour de France blurs by the window. A lone cyclist in a red jersey rides by confidently first, followed by three more, and then the great mass of riders who would lose the race come later. Dick essentially agrees to grant Nicole a divorce and walks away as Nicole realizes that he probably had anticipated everything from the beginning.

Dick spends his last full day on the Riviera with his children, wanting to "hold them close for hours" (p. 311). He says goodbye to his longtime employees and leaves notes for Nicole and Baby Warren. Right before leaving for America, he stops by Gausse's beach for a last look. Nicole and Baby arrive there, and they notice Dick observing the beach from a rock. Baby has already dismissed him, but Nicole admits that he was a good husband to her. He sits and drinks with Mary Minghetti and Caroline Sibley-Biers, avoiding the view of Nicole and Tommy. He stands up unsteadily and blesses the beach before leaving.

Nicole and Dick stay in touch after she remarries. He opens an unsuccessful office in Buffalo and subsequently moves to several small towns in New York, practicing general medicine. She hears that he bicycles a great deal and always seems to be working on a medical treatise. He allegedly becomes somehow illegally entangled with a girl who works at a grocery store. After this, he sends only one more letter to say that he is practicing in Geneva, New York. He seems to live an unremarkable and anonymous existence thereafter.


The final chapters document Nicole's steady rise to complete recovery and, as an inevitable consequence, her abandonment of Dick. She has become well enough (and Dick has deteriorated enough) to see him with critical judgment. She criticizes him for drinking as much as he does, and she recognizes the unhealthiness of his attention to their children. She believes that "his awful faculty of being right seemed to have deserted him at last" (p. 275), and she can sense that she has become mentally and emotionally more capable than the husband who saved her from complete insanity. Her decision to give Tommy Barban the entire jar of camphor rub is described a "sin" (p. 279) because it is a defiance of Dick's authority as well as a redirection of her care, concern, and loyalty to another man. She knows that she is about to take a leap from the secure foothold that has supported her for ten years, and the events at the end of the book serve to increase her resolve to propel herself forward to independence and maturity.

Dick also senses this imminent leap. He knows that he has changed. He even admits as much to Rosemary, telling her that the change took place a while back but that "the manners remain intact for some time after the morale breaks" (p. 285). He is not at all surprised by Nicole's eventual decision to leave him for Tommy Barban. In fact, Nicole senses that Dick had "planned for her to have" (p. 289) this completeness and independence. In fact, giving Nicole up is arguably the one thing that Dick does with dignity in the entire final section of the novel. It seems that, as Nicole suspects, he was aware that their marriage would end this way from the moment he fell in love with her (he did confront some second thoughts at the time), and it is in this way that Dick can be accused of actively contributing to his own demise. In addition to the circumstantial pressures of the Warren fortune, being both husband and doctor to Nicole, the death of his father, and the death of an entire era, Dick facilitated his own failure through choices that he chose and understood. Thus Dick's story is a 20th-century tragedy. He becomes a pitiful character, making failed attempts at water stunts and confronting the complete loss of his former self.

His disintegration, moreover, is cathartic for Nicole. Her loss of her former self means completely the opposite as she throws off the shackles of her illness and dependence and finally steps into the light of a mind unclouded by past demons. She looks at herself and sees all of the beauty and youth that she had not been able to enjoy for quite a long time. By cutting "the cord" (p. 302), Nicole not only overcomes her dependence on Dick, but also cuts the remaining threads of the traumatic past that tied her to her real father.

When Dick blesses the beach at Gausse's, where Nicole is kneeling, before he leaves forever for America, we see the final enactment of their complicated relationship in which Dick was both a father figure, and a kind of spiritual father for Nicole. This scene provides her final expression of gratitude for everything he has done for her, and it provides his final blessing for the life that he had always planned for her to have.

The novel's final chapter captures the poignant failure and anonymity that defines Dick Diver's life after he returns to America. He moves from small town to small town, engaging only in a general practice and thereby disposing of all of the training, ambition, and promise that he once had. His relationship with a girl at a grocery store is suspicious, and the fact that it ends in a lawsuit suggests that Dick has continued to allow his unhealthy desire for girls to overcome his will and self-control. His reported attempts to write a medical treatise only make him seem more pathetic, since he has proven that he is incapable of completing such a project (an idea that must have haunted Fitzgerald as his work on the novel progressed). The narrative of this chapter is journalistic in style, reporting on events in the same sparse and objective tone that Fitzgerald employed at the beginning of the second section, when Dick's early years as a scholar were described. The consistency of tone between these two sections juxtaposes them in a way that emphasizes the tragedy of Dick's situation. Since Dick was an active participant in taking the path that would lead to his self-destruction, he has become a tragic hero who has lost himself as he has facilitated the rebirth of a strong, confident Nicole.