Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 2, Chapters 11–12 | Summary

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Summary

Book 2, Chapter 11

This chapter opens in August 1925 as Dick and Mrs. Speers are together at a café. She makes reference to the events that have occurred in Paris, but Dick impatiently responds Nicole is fine.

Rosemary and her mother are leaving the next day, and Mrs. Speers is thanking Dick for being "the first man Rosemary ever cared for." Pretending he is as objective as ever about Rosemary, Dick tries to dismiss the comments lightly: "She's over it already." But then he owns up to the truth: "I'm in love with Rosemary."

After the two part, Dick goes home to his work room and thinks about how uncomfortable he is with the display of wealth he and Nicole have grown accustomed to. He truly wishes to focus on his work again and makes a plan for a more plausible approach to it.

He drinks gin to prepare himself to deal with Nicole, keeping up "a perfect front" he had begun after her breakdown in Paris. He had arranged for Rosemary to disappear and to leave for home immediately with Nicole. When Nicole tries to get him to say positive things about Rosemary on the train ride home, he resists, knowing he simply cannot feed any jealousy in her. She is fragile, and it annoys him.

Book 2, Chapter 12

Dick approaches Nicole in the garden and tells her about his luncheon with Mrs. Speers, then quickly changes the subject to talk about a man named Bartholomew Tailor whom he also ran into. This is the type of man he and Nicole detest and hate to see in their part of the Riviera, so it is a safe topic.

When Dick goes into the house, his thoughts return to his dissatisfaction with their lifestyle and the way Nicole's wealth seems to "belittle his work." In addition, he is tired of having to live such a tightly controlled life, always leery about any ill effects for Nicole. Just now he has not even been able to play the piano, afraid it might remind her of the events of the past few weeks.

The chapter ends in December. Nicole seems to have become "well-knit" again, and the Divers decide to spend the holidays in the Swiss Alps.

Analysis

The events in this chapter have biographical parallels with Scott Fitzgerald's own alcoholism and Zelda Fitzgerald's mental illness. Nicole has come unraveled, but clearly Dick is unraveling as well. He is unhappy with his life in every way, and he is filled with unrequited love for Rosemary. Having seen the destructive effects of alcohol throughout the novel, readers should also take note of his increased drinking, especially since he seems to be using it as a coping mechanism.

At last the nature of what Violet McKisco witnessed is revealed. The scene occurred in Nicole's bedroom, not the bathroom, where he had found Nicole "dissolved in crazy laughter telling Mrs. McKisco she could not go in the bathroom because the key was thrown down the well."

Dick is also confused about his changed feelings toward Nicole. Having lived through her breakdowns before, he knows he closes a portion of himself off to her when he believes she is about to go through another phase of mental illness. However, he thinks at this time he has "some new coldness in his heart." He is very weary of it all, and this is best revealed near the end of Chapter 12 when he simply sits and listens "to the buzz of the electric clock ... to time." It is passing him by, and he is unsatisfied.

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