Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 1, Chapters 1–2 | Summary


Tender Is the Night is divided into three books, each book beginning anew with a Chapter 1, with a total of 61 chapters in the novel. For the purposes of the study guide chapters have been grouped together according to connected plot, action, or location.


Book 1, Chapter 1

The novel opens with a detailed description of the setting: the rose-colored building and beautiful beach of Gausse's Hôtel on the French Riviera. It has recently become the favorite summer resort for "notable and fashionable people." It is June 1925, and a mother and daughter have just arrived. They are not particularly pleased with their first impression and plan to depart on a ship for America in three days. The daughter, nearly 18 years old, is a rising star in Hollywood named Rosemary Hoyt. After getting her room she goes down to the beach and enjoys swimming before settling down on the sand to observe the people around her. A homosexual who introduces himself to her as Campion then introduces her to others: Mrs. Abrams, an older woman who recognizes Rosemary from the movies; a couple with the last name McKisco; and a man named Mr. Dumphry. Further down the beach Rosemary also notices a "lovely and pitiful" woman wearing pearls and a "fine man" wearing a jockey cap on the beach; the latter seems to be the center of attention, but she does not meet this couple, nor a few others in their party who seem to be Americans.

Book 1, Chapter 2

Rosemary feels uncomfortable as the people she meets engage her in conversation, and she wishes her mother were with her. After a short while she goes back into the water with the McKiscos and swims out to a large raft where a man identified by Mrs. McKisco as "a rotten musician" named Abe North is sunning. The McKiscos engage Rosemary in more small talk after North swims away, and when Rosemary notices the woman with pearls enter the sea where her two children are playing, Violet McKisco identifies her as Mrs. Diver and says simply, "They're not at the hotel."

Rosemary goes back onto the sand and falls asleep. When she awakens, everyone has left the beach except the man wearing the jockey cap. She had noticed before napping he seems to be the orchestrator of the partying at his part of the beach, and now he appears to be the one in charge of clearing away the debris. Although he does not introduce himself, Fitzgerald identifies him as Dick Diver. Dick and Rosemary talk briefly before he carries the last of the beach items to his car and she goes to the hotel.


The first impression readers have of Rosemary is, despite her beauty and apparent success as a movie star, she is still rather childlike and dependent on her mother. She is not yet comfortable with her fame, having only been a celebrity for six months. When the people on the beach try to talk to her, she decides quickly she does not like them and wishes her mother were there with her unique ability to get Rosemary "out of unwelcome situations swiftly and firmly." Rosemary is drawn immediately to the Divers, however, and when left alone with Dick at the end of Chapter 2, her heart lifts as "she lived in the bright blue worlds of his eyes, eagerly and confidently."

One strange reference in Chapter 2 confuses Rosemary. Mrs. McKisco refers to a plot—at first, Rosemary thinks she is referring to the plot of her movie, but it soon becomes clear she is referring to the drama that will unfold on the beach over the summer. It seems everyone has a role, and as Rosemary immediately picks up on, Dick Diver is the star. As he moves around in his jockey hat, raking the beach and clowning around, everyone watches and is entertained. The one exception is his wife, Nicole, who is intent on making some sort of list and is oblivious to Dick's antics. Also, the McKisco group seems to know they are only minor characters, with Mrs. Abrams saying, "We're the gallery," as Fitzgerald is foreshadowing in this moment events to come later.

It's clear the group Rosemary lands in is separate from the Divers' group—and that Rosemary would much rather be with the Divers. But the most is revealed in these early chapters about Violet and Albert McKisco, who talk to Nicole more than others do. Albert is a tiresome fellow who consistently talks rather rudely to his wife, even when Violet tries to brag about his work as a novelist. Violet likes to gossip, probably because she doesn't have much going on in her life. As Fitzgerald says about Albert McKisco: "Obviously he had created his wife's world, and allowed her few liberties in it." This condition of male domination and female willingness to live with it will be a main theme of the novel.

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