Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 3, Chapter 2 | Summary



In May a despondent Dick enters Franz Gregorovius's office. He has lost his most interesting patient, the American painter. When Franz comments on the fact he knows the woman had neurosyphilis, even though the tests came back negative, Dick gets angry. He wishes for the woman's dignity to be intact along with her secrets.

Franz suggests Dick take the day off, and then he suggests he go to Lausanne for two or three days to see about a case that has been brought to his attention. Dick agrees and leaves the same day. When he arrives to interview the father of the patient, a Spanish noble named Señor Pardo y Cuidad Real, Dick feels more like himself.

Real is angry and distraught because his son, Francisco, is a homosexual and has also developed a dependence on alcohol. Homosexuality is not acceptable in his culture, and he has tried to rid his son of this "sickness" in horrid ways. He has had Francisco dosed with an aphrodisiac drug and taken to brothels to try to interest him in having sex with women. He has tried to beat the homosexuality out of him. Now he wants Dick and Franz to "cure" him.

Dick is appalled. He suggests they might be able to help Francisco with his alcohol problem but says he needs to talk to the young man to see if he will give "proper co-operation."

When interviewed, Francisco admits he is terribly unhappy and the drinking stems from that. When he expresses self-pity and helplessness, however, Dick responds strongly. He says unless Francisco learns to control his sensuality and "the drinking that provokes it" he will remain unhappy his whole life. Dick has already decided not to take the case, but continues talking with the boy for an hour or so. As they talk, Royal Dumphry appears on the scene. He recognizes Dick right away and gushes about the dinner party at the Divers' villa, calling it "the most civilized gathering of people that I have ever known."

Dick shrinks from the conversation until Dumphry casually mentions he is sorry "he's dying." The he turns out to be Nicole's father, who is being treated by Dumphry's doctor. Right away, Dick reaches out to Dr. Dangeu and learns Devereux Warren is dying from liver failure due to alcoholism.

Later that night, after Real unsuccessfully begs Dick to "cure my only son," Dr. Dangeu approaches Dick with the news Warren really wants to see Nicole before he dies. They agree Dick will talk to his father-in-law himself to decide whether or not it is advisable. So Dick goes to Warren's suite in the hotel, where he is "gracefully weakening and sinking" toward death. After hearing what Warren has to say, Dick decides to call Franz and talk it over with him. However, Franz is not there and so Dick leaves a message with Kaethe about the urgency of his need to speak to her husband.

Dick fails to tell Kaethe Nicole must not be apprised of the situation, and although she surely knows better, Kaethe does let the news slip. Nicole immediately decides she is going to Lausanne, and Franz (who has just returned) is unable to stop her. Franz calls Dick, who at that moment is being visited by the nun caring for Warren, who announces the old man has left the hotel, taking his valet and all of his things.

Dick and Dr. Dangeu try to intercept Warren at the train station, but they are too late. Nicole arrives to learn the news her father is gone. Dick notices "a vast tragic apathy" flows from her. At the end of the chapter she bitterly complains, "I don't see why you have to—come in contact with all this." Dick's reply has an element of sarcasm in it: "Oh, don't you? Sometimes I don't either."


The death of the American painter and Dick's conversation with Fernando lead him to have very complex self-reflections. He identifies a character trait in both people: charm. It's significant he doesn't seem to connect this trait to himself, since charm has been one of his biggest assets throughout his life. However, his thoughts do lead him to look closely at his relationships. He sees the strong personalities of people like Rosemary and Nicole, Abe and Tommy, have pressed "so close to him that he became the personality itself." Further, he acknowledges he is only able to be "as complete as they were complete themselves." All of this has led to loneliness and an ever-increasing desire to be loved.

As the chapter ends, after the rather terse exchange between Nicole and Dick about his having to "come in contact" with so many mentally ill people, they sit in silence listening to a song, "The Wedding of the Painted Doll." This song is from a 1929 Broadway musical titled The Broadway Melody. The final line of the song, "You're married to stay," might feel like a death sentence to Dick and Nicole at this point.

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