Tender Is the Night | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Tender Is the Night | Book 3, Chapters 8–9 | Summary

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Summary

Book 3, Chapter 8

Nicole prepares carefully for Tommy's arrival and is pleased by the shape her body is in. She is excited "to be worshipped again" and is more than ready for a change. However, she is outraged by Tommy's first words to her, that she has "white crook's eyes." Realizing soon she is overreacting, she lets it go.

Nicole and Tommy quip back and forth in a flirtatious way as they eat and drink wine. Nicole wastes no time falling completely under Tommy's spell: "Everything Tommy said to her became part of her forever."

Later that afternoon, they drive toward Monte Carlo, but Nicole declares she wants to stop, that it is too far to his hotel. So Tommy gets them a room just outside of Nice. After they make love, Nicole compares Tommy to Dick in her mind.

There is a lot of noise outside their room. An American military boat has allowed sailors to come to shore, and women are desperately trying to get the men's attention as they return to the boat. Two women ask to come up to Tommy and Nicole's room so they can wave at their men from the balcony; Tommy obliges them.

Nicole and Tommy proceed on to Monte Carlo and dine there, then continue their lovemaking. Nicole insists she must be home before dawn, so Tommy drives her back to Villa Diana. She is glad to be home, happy about the day but feeling the strain of so much excitement as well.

Book 3, Chapter 9

Dick arrives home late the following afternoon. He admits part of his reason for taking the trip was to take Rosemary to her train in Avignon. He declares his interest in her is over, however, because she "didn't grow up." When he asks what Nicole has been doing, she acknowledges she has spent time with Tommy. Dick winces and asks she not give him any details.

Just then Tommy calls and tells Nicole he must see her in Cannes. When she declines and also will not say "I love you," Tommy grows insistent. He tells her the marriage is over and Dick knows it, but Nicole only says she must talk to Dick and will then contact him again. Nicole alternates between feeling thrilled about her "achievement" with Tommy and regretting the loss of her love for Dick. She silently observes Dick for a while and tries to hug him, but he dismisses her roughly, saying "I can't do anything for you any more. I'm trying to save myself."

Within a few minutes, both Nicole and Dick make their decisions independently. Nicole decides to "cut the cord forever." Dick declares to himself: "The case was finished. Doctor Diver was at liberty."

Analysis

Letting go of Dick is not as easy as Nicole would like. After all, he is the only man she has ever known intimately. It is not surprising her first time making love with another man causes her to compare the experience to what she has known with Dick. However, she is able to quickly overwrite her memories of those times with what is happening now—and to find what is happening now to be superior.

Nicole is not strong enough to stand on her own, however. It is part of the experience of women in the era in which she lives—this need for a man—but it is difficult to think she is completely healthy when she must so immediately replace one man with another. Some signs of her mental illness still exist. She is very tired from the excitement of her day with Tommy, and this is reminiscent of the night years ago when she had to leave the excitement of the evening in Caux because it exhausted her. Also, when Tommy comments she is "a little complicated after all" her response is a bit worrisome given her diagnosis of schizophrenia. She says, "I'm just a whole lot of different simple people." However, Tommy is very strong and very committed to Nicole, so she will probably be OK. Dick, too, seems to understand she is well enough to be set free.

Hope for Dick's future is harder to come by, but one thing that lends it is the self-reflection he had in Lausanne. He realized then he could only be whole if the broken people in his life were whole. Rosemary seems whole. Nicole and Tommy seem to complete each other now. So perhaps Dick, too, can now get well.

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