- "Her eyes were bright, big, clear, wet, and shining, the color of her cheeks was real, breaking close to the surface from the strong young pump of her heart. Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood—she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.”
Rosemary Hoyt is just a girl when she arrives on the French Riviera Beach but soon finds herself in very grown up situations. Her first instinct is to flee but she remains and at the urging of her mother falls in love with Dick Diver who is attracted to her youth and beauty.
- “At that moment the Divers represented externally the exact furthermost evolution of a class, so that most people seemed awkward beside them—in reality a qualitative change had already set in that was not at all apparent to Rosemary."
Nicole is greatly interested in the Divers and comes under their spell. Their wealth and luxurious life style attracts her but she has no idea of the reality of their stressful life.
- “Don’t you know you can’t do anything about people?”
Dick Diver says this to Rosemary when she asks him to help his alcoholic friend Abe North. As a psychiatrist, he knows that a person bent on destruction is impossible to help. This foreshadows Dick’s own descent into alcoholism.
- “He knew that what he was now doing marked a turning point in his life—it was out of line with everything that had preceded it.”
Dick waits outside the theatre waiting for Rosemary to emerge. He has recently seen her in the film Daddy’s Girl and fallen in love with her. Despite his wife Nicole and despite Rosemary’s youth, he is bent on having an affair with Rosemary. His eyes are wide open.
- “People used to say what a wonderful father and daughter we were—they used to wipe their eyes. We were just like lovers—and then all at once we were lovers—and ten minutes after it happened I could have shot myself—except I guess I’m such a Goddamned degenerate I didn’t have the nerve to do it.”
Devereaux Warren breaks down and confesses that he is the cause of his daughter Nicole’s schizophrenia. The doctors order him never to see her again.
- “Now there was this scarcely saved waif of disaster bringing him the essence of a continent. . . .”
Despite his colleagues warnings that he not marry the patient Nicole because he would become both her husband and caretaker, Dick Diver fails to listen and, overwhelmed by the love and adoration she bears for him and her extreme wealth, runs headlong into marriage.
- “Many times he had tried unsuccessfully to let go his hold on her. They had many fine times together, fine talks between the loves of the white nights, but always when he turned away from her into himself he left her holding Nothing in her hands and staring at it, calling it many names, but knowing it was only the hope that he would come back soon.”
Dick watches as Nicole sleeps and wonders about their relationship. He feels stifled, wants to be free, yet feels owned by her. Because of this, he cannot fully love her. Thus, Nicole can never get all of him and always wants more.
- “For an hour, tied up with his profound reaction to his father’s death, the magnificent façade of the homeland, the harbor of New York, seemed all sad and glorious to Dick, but once ashore the feeling vanished, nor did he find it again in the streets or the hotels or the trains that bore him first to Buffalo, and then south to Virginia with his father’s body.”
Dick returns home to America for his father’s funeral only to realize the America he left after graduating from College no longer exists. The old world America, before World War I, with its high ideals and integrity have given way to post-War decadence.
- “The figures of Dick and herself, mutating, undefined, appeared as spooks caught up into a fantastic dance. For months every word had seemed to have an overtone of some other meaning, soon to be resolved under circumstances that Dick would determine. Though this state of mind was perhaps more hopeful,—the long years of sheer being had had an enlivening effect on the parts of her nature that early illness had killed, that Dick had not reached—through no fault of his but simply because no one nature can extend entirely inside another—it was still disquieting.”
After years of being completely dependent upon her psychiatrist husband, Nicole begins to come to terms with her new identity as a separate, independent entity, no longer in Dick’s shadow. For once, she is happy and thinking clearly.
- “The case was finished. Doctor Diver was at liberty.”
Dick Diver comes to realize that not only is his marriage to Nicole over but also that his role as her psychiatrist has come to an end. Nicole is cured and now he is free to continue the rest of his life.
Tender is the Night: Top Ten Quotes