Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 1, Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

At 11:00 on the morning after the all-night party, Abe North is at the train station in Paris, about to depart on his trip to the United States. Nicole Diver is there to see him off, apparently because he asked her to come. Fitzgerald reveals Abe has been "heavy, belly-frightened, with love" for Nicole for years. That love is not returned, and Abe and Nicole seem uncomfortable with each other. Nicole chides him for drinking too much and then, relieved to see someone she knows, goes toward "a tall girl with straw hair like a helmet." Abe, suffering greatly from alcohol withdrawal, is about to go get a drink when Nicole returns, angry at having been snubbed by the girl.

Nicole is relieved again to see Rosemary and Mary North enter the station, and soon Dick Diver arrives. Abe boards the train, and then a shocked Nicole grabs Dick's arms and points to a "vivid scene" unfolding. The girl who had snubbed Nicole suddenly runs away from a man she is talking to, takes a revolver out of her purse, and fires two shots at him. Abe is still waving goodbye from his window as the murder occurs.

Dick goes toward the scene of the crime to determine exactly what has happened. He returns to the women and reports the name of the shooter is Maria Wallis, and says the dead man is an Englishman. Dick plans to go to the police station where Maria has been taken, to be sure "they don't do anything outrageous to her," but Nicole protests. She is sure the best course of action is to telephone the girl's sister, Laura, who lives in Paris. Nicole goes to make the phone call as Dick and Rosemary finally truly see each other for the first time that day and feel the "slow warm hum of love" begin.

Having reached Laura, Nicole returns. Everyone seems to look to Dick to help make them feel better. He tries to lighten things by referring to a famous Russian ballet director, Diaghileff, suggesting Maria certainly has a "nice sense of decor" that would fit into a ballet. And then the friends "flowed out into the street" and on with their lives.

Analysis

That Abe North is in love with Nicole should probably not be surprising, but somehow it is. Readers might recall that he, like Tommy Barban, is protective of the Divers and their secrets, so it is likely whatever Tommy knows, he also knows. And it must be wrapped up in what Dick recently revealed to Rosemary—loving Nicole is a complicated thing, and the complication is the secret Tommy fiercely protects to the point of fighting a duel with McKisco.

Seemingly oblivious to the fact so many men feel they must protect her, Nicole states to Abe, "I am a woman and my business is to hold things together." Abe's sardonic response is, "My business is to tear them apart." What he is tearing apart, however, is himself. His self-destructiveness is made painfully clear through Fitzgerald's vivid descriptions of him as a "gigantic presence ... like the wreck of a galleon." What was once his will to live has "now become a will to die."

However, Dick is able to rescue his wife and friends from utter sadness at the "gigantic obscenity" Abe has become, using his legendary tactics of focusing on the good things around them. Later, after the shooting, Dick is less successful at distracting Mary, Nicole, and Rosemary. As Fitzgerald makes clear, the shots being fired are symbolic of how everything has changed. The fun times in Paris are over. The violence has permeated everyone's lives in a new way since World War I cannot be ignored. No matter what a person's station in life is, the world is different—tragically different. And Dick himself is changed, by the fact he loves Rosemary, so much so "the impetus of his newly recognized emotion" is shaking his ability to stay focused on his life as nothing more than a fun party to be imagined and organized.

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