Literature Study GuidesTender Is The NightBook 1 Chapters 20 21 Summary

Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 1, Chapters 20–21 | Summary



Book 1, Chapter 20

Having lunch after the experience in the train station, everyone is upset and unhappy. They soon go their separate ways, Mary North to the train station for her own trip away from Paris, Rosemary to tend to some studio business, the Divers to muse a bit more together before getting up from the table.

When Collis Clay sees the Divers at the café, he greets them, and Nicole Diver uses his presence as a good excuse to depart, leaving the two men to chat together. Collis rambles on in a "confidential monologue" that Dick Diver suddenly tunes into more fully when he realizes Collis is describing an intimate encounter Rosemary has had with another man on a train. Dick grows increasingly jealous throughout the next hours as he imagines the steamy scene over and over in his mind.

After doing some banking business, Dick decides he will go look for Rosemary in the studio district. He is somehow compelled to do so, even though he senses it "marked a turning point in his life." Fitzgerald obscurely compares Dick's need to see Rosemary to the need of a famous martyr in Italy, Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98), to "stand in front of a church in Ferrara, in sackcloth and ashes." Savonarola felt compelled as a prophet to demand reform in the Catholic Church, and he was burned for his stance.

Book 1, Chapter 21

Dick Diver does not find Rosemary at the Films Par Excellence Studio, but he does meet an American who is selling papers and is much more interested in talking to Dick than Dick is in talking to him. Once Dick gets away, he finds a phone and calls Rosemary's room, breathing heavily. He says to her: "I had to call you ... I'm in an extraordinary condition about you."

When the call ends Rosemary returns to writing a letter to her mother. She writes she has just met with a movie director, "fell in love with him," and wants to leave for Hollywood right away.

A few hours later Dick calls Nicole, and they make a plan to see a play. Rosemary plans to stay in for dinner.


Rosemary's statement in the taxi a couple of nights ago, "I just wanted to make you love me," seems to have foretold what is now happening. As Dick falls more and more in love with her, she appears to be pretty much done with their affair. She does love him at the train station, when he is acting strong and in charge, but as he weakens in response to his growing obsession with her, she feels unhappy. It doesn't take her long to find a new object of love, although she does say to her mother in the letter, "I Do Love Dick Best." The use of capital letters emphasizes the dramatic—and perhaps shallow—aspect of the whole affair.

For Dick, his love is suddenly as powerful as a religious fanaticism. The odd reference to Savonarola drives this point home. Dick no longer wishes to turn his back on "things unforgotten, unshriven, unexpurgated." In other words, he wants to reclaim his need for love, without editing his feelings by duty or the other obligations that have characterized his years with Nicole. He is jealous—of the man in Collis Clay's story, of Rosemary's mother—yet he also seems to know that "It's impossible."

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