Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 3, Chapters 5–6 | Summary



Book 3, Chapter 5

In April the Divers are living in Villa Diana again. On the day this chapter opens, Dick is firing their cook, Augustine, for drinking their expensive wine. She is belligerent and yells back at Dick about how much he drinks, wielding a knife in her anger. Nicole observes the scene and calls the police, who will not help, and convinces Dick to pay Augustine extra money in order to get her to calm down and leave.

That the Divers are unhappy in their marriage is apparent. Nicole says, "We can't go on like this" and refers to Dick as "ruined." She is scared of his outbursts of temper. When she asks him, "what do you get out of this?" he replies he is content to see her approaching a full recovery and feels their situation is much more complex than just the two of them.

Dick decides he and Nicole should go out to the yacht of a wealthy man named T.F. Golding, and despite Nicole's misgivings, they do so. What relieves her stress is the sight of Tommy Barban on the yacht. She has not seen him for five years, and her adoration of him is immediately clear.

Tommy is in the company of Lady Sibly-Biers, whom he identifies as "the wickedest woman in London." Nicole is unimpressed by her looks, although later she will admire the force of her formidable attitude. Golding approaches and confirms he has talked Dick into remaining with the boat party as they cruise to Cannes. Dick is already ordering their chauffeur to leave their car there.

As the party develops, Nicole notes Dick being drunk and obnoxious. She is disgusted by the way he humiliates himself. Later, having noticed his long absence from the main party, she goes in search of him. He is standing at the bow by himself. Although he is calm, his words are cruel. Tommy approaches them and tries to lighten things up, and Dick is docile the rest of the night. When they arrive in Cannes, Tommy drives their car back to Villa Diana; Dick passes out in the back seat.

Book 3, Chapter 6

The next morning Dick briefly apologizes to Nicole for his behavior but requests there be no more discussion about it. Then he has a somewhat harsh exchange with Tommy, which Nicole overhears. She realizes Tommy has always loved her and Dick has come to dislike him. She escapes into her garden, where she realizes she is seriously considering taking Tommy as a lover.

As Tommy leaves, Nicole tosses him some camphor rub for the cold he is developing, even though Dick tells her not to give it all to him. Dick is angry and withdraws from her.

After a week Nicole stops thinking about Tommy. But in June they get a telegram from him saying he is back in the area. At the same time, Rosemary sends a telegram stating she will be at Gausse's the next day.


Dick's bitterness toward Nicole is becoming hard to ignore. As his life crumbles, he is beginning to blame her for all the wasted years. It becomes especially poignant when he claims he is happy because she is getting well—and she responds with exasperation.

Even at the beginning of Chapter 5, before Nicole responds with such delight over seeing Tommy, it is clear the Divers' marriage is all but over. The couple talks about how bad things are between them.

Nicole is in her garden when she realizes she could love Tommy. It is absolutely the right place for her to be, the place that symbolizes her blooming, her growing strength.

Nicole is clearly separating herself from Dick, but it is not easy for her since she has always been content to be "owned" by him. She is not used to standing up for herself; she has barely thought for herself all of these years. Her refusal to obey him in the small matter of giving the camphor to Tommy might not seem like a big deal, but it represents a huge turning point. She is fearful over the enormity of what she has done. Yet she is dismayed at the idea she should "still continue her dry suckling at his lean chest." Simply put, Dick no longer provides her with the things she needs from a man. She has lost her respect for him, feels she cannot depend on him. Waiting in the wings for her is a wonderful option, the extremely masculine, strong Tommy Barban. When she sees him dressed in Dick's clothes, Nicole feels sad. But she knows her reason for feeling sad is misplaced; what is really sad, really tragic, is Tommy is going to replace Dick in her life.

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