Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 3, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Villa Diana is rented out for the summer, so the Divers travel around Europe until they can return home. Dick's focus is on their children, now 11 and nine years of age. Lanier has an immense curiosity about the world; Topsy is described by Dick as "exquisitely made like Nicole."

Since Franz Gregorovius has bought the Divers' share of the clinic, they are richer than ever and have become casual about spending money.

One of the trips the Divers make is to see Mary North, now the Contessa di Minghetti, married to a wealthy Asian named Hosain. The conte has two children of his own, and one of them has a skin disease, hard to cure. Dick and Nicole warn their children not to get too close to the boy.

On their second day at the Minghetti house, Lanier reports he has been made to bathe in the water the sick boy took a bath in. When Dick chides the woman he assumes is the Minghetti maid, he unknowingly commits a horrible faux pas. It seems this woman is the conte's sister, and Dick should never have addressed her as a servant. Hosain is outraged and immediately leaves the house. Although Dick tries to apologize to Mary, he commits another social error when he tells her she has gotten boring and that's why he did not listen closely to her descriptions of the household. Mary replies with bitterness, and the Divers depart immediately.

Analysis

Dick, who was once the orchestrator of grand social occasions, has lost his grace. Although he tries to defend himself when Mary expresses shock at how little he listened to her by saying he was simply too bored, the truth is Dick was drunk. Alcohol is continuing to ruin him. He no longer even pretends to be interested in work, and he no longer experiences guilt about wasting so much money on a grand lifestyle.

As Dick weakens he notices Nicole strengthening. He sees she seems to thrive on travel, and her comments seem sharp-witted and completely sane. One uncomfortable observation Dick makes is comparing young Topsy to Nicole, as if he is looking at the girl through a veil of sexuality. This unease is deepened with his comment about disciplining children: "What do I care whether Topsy 'adores' me or not? I'm not bringing her up to be my wife." No healthy father would think in such terms.

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