Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 2, Chapters 5–7 | Summary

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Summary

Book 2, Chapter 5

This chapter tells of the first meetings between Dick Diver and Nicole after his return to Zurich. The first evening Nicole advises him she will be leaving the clinic in June, in the care of her older sister. She hopes they might go to Como. Dick is dazzled by her beauty and feels himself falling under her spell, which gives her more confidence and an excitement "that seemed to reflect all the excitement of the world."

During his next visit they listen to some records on Nicole's phonograph. When she sings to him, he is deeply affected, and then taken in with the pure sweetness of her.

Book 2, Chapter 6

Dick and Nicole meet again in May, when he takes her out to lunch in Zurich. He struggles to maintain some amount of distance between them, wanting her to continue growing in confidence and happiness with or without him, but "Nicole brought everything to his feet, gifts of sacrificial ambrosia, of worshipping myrtle."

Four weeks after Dick's return to Zurich, he is feeling established there, working on writing a text. He meets with Franz Gregorovius, who insists Dick must meet with Dr. Dohmler about his relationship with Nicole. At first Dick is reluctant but then he agrees. The outcome of their meeting is Dick must make a commitment to stop seeing Nicole at all. Dohmler reaches this conclusion after hearing Dick say he is "half in love with her" and has even thought of marrying her.

Book 2, Chapter 7

That evening Dick sees Nicole and must begin extricating himself from their relationship. He advises her to go to America and "be a débutante and fall in love—and be happy." He goes on to assure her of her future happiness and ability to have a "perfectly normal life." His words pain her greatly; hearing them, her "world had fallen to pieces." Yet she holds herself together and says she must get back to the clinic. Dick can feel her unhappiness. He goes back a few hours later to try to complete the severing of the tie, but Nicole declines to see him. He expects her to reach out to him in the next few days, but she doesn't, and Franz Gregorovius assures him she is taking it all quite well.

Analysis

If Dick were not a psychologist, it would no doubt be perfectly acceptable for him to fall in love with and marry Nicole. But this is not his reality. As a professional, he knows he must accept Dr. Dohmler's directive, but that doesn't mean he likes it. He finds Nicole's response unsatisfactory. No doubt he was hoping she might make a big deal out of losing him, but instead she accepts it. Or does she? Nicole's intelligence is already well established. She can speak four or five languages, is a somewhat accomplished musician and artist, and her letters written as she regained her stability reveal she has an understanding of her illness. Perhaps she will live with this verdict as long as she is confined to the asylum, but since she will soon be out, she will be somewhat free to pursue whatever life she wants. Readers might recall a comment Dick makes in Book 1, when Nicole decides the best thing to do for Maria Wallis is to call her sister: "When Nicole takes things into her hands ... there is nothing more to be done." As Chapter 7 closes she might very well be plotting her next move. The more bravely she bears the news, the more likely she is to convince him she is perfectly sane—and perfectly fine for him to take as a wife. As she says to herself: "Dress stay crisp for him, button stay put, bloom narcissus—air stay still and sweet."

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