Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 1, Chapters 3–4 | Summary



Book 1, Chapter 3

Over a midday meal with her mother, when she gets back to the hotel, Rosemary announces: "I fell in love on the beach." The object of her crush is none other than Dick Diver. The narration reveals Elsie Speers is nonplussed with the information that Dick is married. She thinks Rosemary has been a bit too overly focused on herself, and wishes she would have her "bouncing, breathless and exigent idealism" shifted. Elsie is also Rosemary's manager, and she reminds her during their conversation that she is to see someone in the movie industry, Earl Brady, before they leave the area. She is clearly in charge of all aspects of her daughter's life.

Rosemary goes into town to buy some things they need and recognizes Mrs. Diver there, also running errands. Rosemary is too sunburned for the beach the next day, so she and her mother go on a scenic drive around the area, described in lovely detail by Fitzgerald.

Book 1, Chapter 4

When Rosemary goes to the beach the next day, she is delighted when Dick Diver approaches her, announces she was missed, and then invites her to join his party. Rosemary observes Nicole intently, so Nicole's beauty is explained from Rosemary's perspective. When questioned, Rosemary explains why she is in France; she got pneumonia during filming and the trip has been recuperative.

Abe North is with the Divers and so is Tommy Barban, described as a "young man of Latin aspect," younger than Dick or Abe, with a strong body and a handsome face that is marred by "a faint disgust always in his face."

Nicole busies herself copying a recipe and sewing, so Rosemary has time to closely observe all three men, and confirms it is Dick she loves. His physical description, like Nicole's, is given from Rosemary's glowing perspective.

Mary North joins the party, which engages in rather nasty gossip about the McKiscos and their crowd—Mrs. Abrams, Royal Dumphry, and Campion—who have taken up their spot a little way down the beach. Abe and Nicole have previously explained to Rosemary that Dick practically "invented" the Gausse Hôtel as a desirable resort, but Nicole now says she is not particularly happy with the increased crowds on the beach, many of whom appear to be undesirable to her. Dick, on the other hand, thinks an upcoming party will be more amusing if they invite the McKisco group.

When Dick dons the unusual black lace swim trunks Nicole has been sewing for him, Rosemary is delighted. She grows ever more charmed with him, and later that day sobs in her mother's lap, overcome with love for him. They agree to attend a dinner party at the Divers' villa on Friday night.


Two things become clearer about Rosemary in these chapters. The first is her mother is the ultimate authority in her life. She does what her mother says, even if she doesn't want to—like agreeing to the visit to Earl Brady. She thinks of her mother as her best friend, the person who "always had a great influence on her." She tells her mother: "I don't love anybody but you." Sensing that many readers might be quick to characterize Mrs. Speers as the stereotypical obnoxious "stage mother," Fitzgerald is careful to explain this simply is not true. Mrs. Speers is characterized more as a wise mother who wants the best for her daughter—and this does not include spoiling her or sheltering her from the facts of life.

The second thing that becomes clear about Rosemary is she is changeable, even somewhat fickle, in her desires and affections—which substantiates the fact she is still quite childlike. One moment she wants to leave the Riviera, and the next she thinks about staying for much longer. She sees the hotel and surrounding scenery through changing eyes. It feels flat, uninteresting, and hot one afternoon and pleasant, beautiful, and lively the same night.

What is not changing at the moment for Rosemary, however, is her "love at first sight" attraction for Dick Diver. Everything she observes about him is positive. Nevertheless, readers should notice he is not perfect. He likes to manipulate people for his own entertainment and is aware everyone wants to be around him. It is not kind to want to invite people to a party because he believes they are inferior and won't fit in, and he finds the fact amusing. Even Nicole, who comes across as something of a snob in these chapters, knows this is not fair.

The rather odd scene in which Dick wears black lace shorts is actually a great example of one aspect of Modernism, known as "primitivism." This is seen in Rosemary's response. When Fitzgerald says she responds "whole-heartedly to the expensive simplicity of the Divers," it is pure primitivism, which idealizes simple or unsophisticated things. The problem is Rosemary misunderstands the Divers, because as Fitzgerald points out she is unaware at this point of their complexity and lack of innocence. Primitivism is called out further by Fitzgerald with this explanation: "the simplicity of behavior also, the nursery-like peace and good will, the emphasis on the simpler virtues, was part of a desperate bargain with the gods."

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