Literature Study GuidesTender Is The NightBook 2 Chapters 14 15 Summary

Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 2, Chapters 14–15 | Summary



Book 2, Chapter 14

The Divers have been in Zurich for 18 months as this chapter opens. Dick awakens from a dream about war and diagnoses in himself: "Non-combatant's shell-shock." He thinks about Nicole's loneliness and continuing need to own him. It seems being back in Zurich has not eased the repression he feels around the relationship at all.

When morning arrives Lanier comes to watch Dick shave. He and his father have developed a closer relationship in Zurich, and Dick is glad of that. He is now 38 years old.

Dick and Nicole have added a great deal of class and beauty to the clinic, so it now rather resembles a country club. Dick seems to enjoy his work, and many of his patients adore him. He muses this morning about some of his current cases. His most fascinating is an American painter who came to the clinic from Paris, where her cousin found her raving mad among other artists. She suffers acutely physically, with sores all over her body, but her mind remains mostly sharp. He feels a certain level of love for her and great empathy for her suffering. Readers are able to follow Dick on his rounds that morning and meet several more of his patients.

Book 2, Chapter 15

After lunch Dick goes to the house where a distraught Nicole awaits him with a letter she demands he reads. Addressed to Nicole, it is from a recently discharged female patient who is accusing Dick of molesting her daughter who was with her during much of her treatment. Dick recalls the daughter as a "flirtatious little brunette" and remembers he had kissed her in an "almost indulgent way," but went no further than that.

Dick assures Nicole of his innocence, pointing out the writer of the letter is "deranged." Nicole is unconvinced, so Dick takes a strong tone with her and tells her to get the children so they can go on their planned trip to an area fair. As he drives them, he knows Nicole is very unstable. Sure enough, when they get to the fair, Nicole suddenly takes off running. Knowing he must give chase, Dick deposits the children with an attendant at a lottery wheel and desperately looks for his wife, finally finding her riding a Ferris wheel and laughing crazily. He takes her firmly by the arm, again taking a strong tone with her, but she remains resistant and refers to him as Svengali, a fictional character who seduces young women.

Remaining strong, Dick finally sees Nicole succumb as she begs, "Help me, help me, Dick!" They go to find the children and start the drive home. The feeling is of grief and sorrow. Dick knows what awaits him once they get home, a return to "the régime relaxed a year before."

Suddenly, as they near the clinic on a treacherous patch of road, Nicole grabs the wheel and nearly sends them to their death. Luckily, the car is trapped at a 90-degree angle against a tree. Dick is absolutely furious. He sends Lanier and Topsy to a nearby inn to get help. Nicole's insane action is to look at herself in a compact mirror and smooth back her hair.

The proprietor of the inn soon arrives, and Dick tries to get Nicole safely out of the car. Her response is to jump out on her own and nearly fall down the hillside. Dick sends her to the inn to wait with the children. Then, worried about what she might do next, he decides to abandon the car for now, and he hurries up after her.


Nicole's breakdown is serious indeed; it reminds Dick of her worst one to date, the one following the birth of Topsy. Yet even in her insanity, Nicole has some sane thoughts. When Dick tells her the letter is a delusion, she responds, "It's always a delusion when I see what you don't want me to see." She has seen the way the brunette looked at him and knows exactly who the letter is referring to. In fact, it is totally inappropriate for Dick to have kissed the girl, and he even has a sense of guilt about it. Nicole has seen it all before. She knows Dick is drawn to young girls. She knows his love affairs begin with a kiss. Her jealousy is not unwarranted.

After Nicole tries to wreck the car, she makes another astute statement: "You wanted to live!" Whether this is supposed to be in contrast to her or an indication of just how flatly and mechanically she believes Dick has been living his life is unclear. What is clear is she is trying to shock him. Nicole doesn't seem to understand Dick is involved deeply in something in his life: his work, his children. All she knows is he just isn't very involved with her.

What Nicole demands, as Dick grabs her at the fair, is alcohol: brandy. This recurring symbol of unraveling has shown up yet again.

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