Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 1, Chapters 6–8 | Summary

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Summary

Book 1, Chapter 6

This chapter opens on Friday afternoon the day of the Divers' planned dinner party. Nicole, looking as beautiful as ever, is enjoying her garden and the view of the Mediterranean from their villa. Dick notices her when he comes out of his workhouse and informs her he has invited the people on the beach, as he had threatened in Chapter 4, because he wants "to give a party where there's a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt." Nicole does not protest but realizes Dick is in "one of his most characteristic moods," which gives everyone excitement but then leaves him feeling melancholy. Other insights about Dick's personality follow. He draws people into his world and loves for them to stay there, where he will do all he can to make them happy as long as "they subscribed to it completely." He seems to know he is a little too adept at becoming the center of people's worlds, as it is this that contributes to his melancholy afterward—when he "feels as a general might" when gazing "upon a massacre he had ordered to satisfy an impersonal blood lust."

Guests begin arriving at 8:30 that night. Everyone admires Villa Diana, the Divers' home, and their children obediently and charmingly perform a song for the guests. Rosemary feels disappointed when the other group from the beach arrives, and right away they seem not to fit in at the party.

Rosemary talks for a while with Tommy Barban and sits between Campion and Brady during dinner, but she is only interested in Dick. When given a few moments alone with him she says, "I fell in love with you the first time I saw you." He does not reply.

Book 1, Chapter 7

During dinner everyone grows more comfortable with one another—except for Albert McKisco, who is awkward and increasingly drunk. Rosemary admires everyone else and feels wildly happy to be in such a place, surrounded by the glamour of the Divers. The guests all scatter; and then a heated discussion, between McKisco and Tommy Barban, interrupts the peaceful after-dinner atmosphere. Then it is completely shattered when a shaken Violet McKisco returns from a trip to the bathroom to announce she has witnessed some sort of scene in the house. Barban quickly cuts her off: "It's inadvisable to comment on what goes on in this house."

Book 1, Chapter 8

Dick soon effectively intervenes in Albert McKisco's and Tommy Barban's argument, and the situation is defused. Then Rosemary finds herself alone with him a second time. Dick invites her to go to Paris with him and Nicole, "to see Abe North off for America," and says her mother has already approved of her making the trip. When Rosemary tries again to speak of her love for him, he brushes it aside and more than once refers to himself and Nicole as a unit. As the guests leave Rosemary wonders exactly what Violet witnessed in the bathroom.

Analysis

Book 1, Chapter 6 focuses quite a bit on Nicole's beauty, and her age is also given: 24. The fact she is viewed in the backdrop of the garden she loves and apparently obsesses over—as Dick says, "she nags it all the time, worries about its diseases"—is important, as the garden symbolizes rebirth and blooming. Later this symbolism will make more sense to readers, as the particular scene is recalled in a much bigger context.

About midway through the chapter, readers should take note of these words: "To resume Rosemary's point of view." This is a rather unusual intrusion from the author, but it reflects the Modernist style of telling a story from multiple perspectives. Another Modernism element that is evident throughout the dinner party is the description of the Divers as growing to nearly mythical proportions, seeming to "warm and glow and expand" as if the universe were lit only by them. Modernists often make references to new mythic forms they have reinvented in this way.

At this point in the novel Dick never talks to Rosemary about his own feelings for her. Rather, he uses the pronoun we to indicate he and Nicole talk about her and share their feelings for her. This could be viewed as his gentle way of letting Rosemary know he is not romantically interested in her, but it might also be his own way of keeping his growing feelings at bay. After all at the end of Chapter 4 he said to her: "You're the only girl I've seen for a long time that actually did look like something blooming." Considering the description of Nicole has been given in the backdrop of her garden, symbolic of blooming, it does not seem too much of a stretch to think Dick is no longer turned on by his wife the way he is by Rosemary.

Another key idea in Chapter 6 is a bit of foreshadowing, when Dick announces to Nicole he is inviting people in order to give "a really bad party." Something horrible does happen, which Violet McKisco witnesses, but readers and guests alike are still in the dark about what it was. What is clear is Barban knows something about it and will do what it takes to keep it a secret.

Fitzgerald's use of figurative language is notable in these chapters. Nicole's beauty and the beauty of her garden are emphasized by numerous similes and metaphors. Dick carries a coat "like a toreador's cape" when he meets his guests, a reference to the way he will churn people up and make a show of deftly managing them. Fitzgerald seems to enjoy the wordplay he uses in a fairly long section of dialogue in which Abe North's guitar playing is compared to sawing a man in half.

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