Book 2, Chapters 10-23
Dick discusses Nicole’s fortune with Nicole’s sister Baby Warren, insisting that he didn’t marry Nicole for her money and that it wasn’t until after Nicole became pregnant that she insisted “why should we penalize ourselves just because there’s more Warren money than Diver money?”
From Nicole’s fragmented and sometimes incoherent diary we learn that after Dick and Nicole married they traveled together. Although his book sold well and they were able to live on his money, Dick and Nicole decide to buy themselves a bigger apartment with estate money after she becomes pregnant. Nicole relapses after her second pregnancy. The choppy chapter ends with Nicole’s journal entry written recording how Tommy Barban loves her and circling back to events in the opening chapter of the novel on the beach with the arrival of Rosemary.
Dick and Mrs. Speer discuss Rosemary in the Café des Alliées in Cannes. She confirms to Dick that Rosemary is indeed in love with him and that she has given her daughter her blessing. When he returns to his workroom at the Villa Diana, Dick plans a lot of work but can’t get anything accomplished and begins to drink gin.
In the garden he views Nicole with dread. He has been pretending, for the sake of her mental stability, that everything is all right. After the debacle surrounding the dead body, he arranged for Rosemary to move to another hotel. On the train home, he drank practically a whole bottle of wine and dismisses Nicole’s compliments about Rosemary calling her “an infant.” Rosemary, however, haunts his thoughts.
Dick tells Nicole about his encounter with Mrs. Speers. Nicole discerns that he wants to be alone and simultaneously feels love and hate for him. On the piano he plays a popular song “Tea for Two and Two for Tea,” which reminds him of Rosemary. Although he pays his own expenses he is disturbed and feels that Nicole, wants to own him…and in multiplying ways he was constantly inundated by a trickling of goods and money.” He has lost his independence and recognizes the “growing luxury in which the Divers lived, and the need for display which apparently went along with it” (165). In time, Nicole feels more stable and the family travels to the Swiss Alps for the Christmas holidays.
In Gstaad, Dick, Nicole and her sister Baby Warren go to a dance, and Dick finds himself having difficulty not looking at the young girls. Baby discusses with Dick and Nicole how to invest the enormous amount of money from the sale of her mother’s estate. Next Dick’s colleague Franz arrives to discusses a business proposal with Dick. He suggests that he and Dick buy an old clinic on the Zugersee and turn it into an asylum for the rich and famous, as it were. Franz continues to convince Dick and promises him that he could come and go as he pleases and that the locale would be perfect for Nicole. Baby overhears this discussion—the cost would be $220,000—and offers to finance the clinic. Dick is happy to have the opportunity to own his own clinic, but resents Babys “rich insolence” (177).
At thirty-eight, Dick Diver feels unhappy in his life, and his wife Nicole also feels “the loneliness of owning a husband who does not want to be owned” (182). He performs his duties in a perfunctory manner in the men’s and women’s clinics, the Eglantine and the Beeches. He is a kind physician, but also dismissive and impatient with his patients. He feels affection only for one patient who suffers excruciatingly from nervous eczema.
After a tiresome lunch with the patients, back at Villa Diana Dick finds Nicole holding a letter from a recently discharged patient accusing Dick of seducing her fifteen-year-old daughter. Although Dick recalls flirting with and kissing the girl, he states he never had relations of any kind with her, and dismisses Nicole’s anger.
Afterwards, the family takes a drive to the Agiri Fair. Dick observes that Nicole is receding into herself and feels tired of playing the duel roles of husband and psychiatrist. Suddenly, Nicole begins to run away. Before running after her, Dick leaves the children with a gypsy woman at a booth and finds the hysterical Nicole on the Ferris wheel. When he tells her any involvement he had with the girl was a delusion, she screams “It’s always a delusion when I see what you don’t want me to see” but shortly after she breaks down and begs him to help her (195). On the way home he decides she must return to the clinic as a patient and suddenly with a “mad hand,” Nicole grabs the wheel and the car crashes against a tree. Dick sends the children for help (196).
An exhausted Dick decides to take a break and attend the Psychiatric Conference in Berlin. On the plane he realizes how tired he is, and with his magazines in his hand, his mind sleepily meanders between visions of his past, his present and visions of peasant girls.
In Munich Dick meets his old friend Tommy Barban who, after immediately inquiring about Nicole, remarks that Dick does not look as good, as well put together, as he once did. Barban’s friend, Prince Chillicheff, tells Dick about their exciting adventures and how that they had to kill three Red Guards to escape from Russia. Tommy also informs Dick, to his great consternation, that Abe North was beaten to death in a New York speakeasy, a bar that served liquor during Prohibition.
When he awakes the following morning, Dick looks out the window and sees a group of World War I veterans in parade and feels a great loss not only for his friend Abe North but for his “his own youth of ten years ago” (200).
Dick comes to realize that he has come on this trip to save his soul. He loves Nicole but feels because of her money, that “he had been swallowed up like a gigolo.” In the lobby of his Innsbruck hotel, he sees the shadow of a woman and suddenly feels “in love with every pretty woman” (201).
Bad weather forces Dick to abort his climb up the Birkkarspitze. Back in his room, he opens a telegram announcing the death of his father. Deeply distressed, he makes plans to travel back to America for his father’s funeral. He admired his father deeply for his code of honor, his integrity and the principles he imparted to his son. Regretfully and somewhat guiltily he calls Nicole and tells her “he had not always been as good as he had intended to be” (204).
Back in United States, a melancholy Dick who experiences “a profound reaction to his father’s death,” returns his father’s body from Buffalo to Virginia for burial among a hundred other Divers (205).
On the ship home, Dick meets Albert McKisco, a member of the beach party in Chapter I who years earlier had fought a duel with Tommy Barban. He is now a successful writer, and Dick enjoys spending time with him and his wife Violet. In the lobby of a hotel in Rome, he spies Rosemary who comes running over flashing her youth and beauty. Worn weary from traveling, Dick feels unkempt and cracks jokes to deflect attention from his appearance. He compares Rosemary to his daughter Topsy. He is supposed to meet Rosemary but stops into the bar first where he runs into Collis Clay, also at the hotel to see Rosemary.
At first the phone in Rosemary’s room keeps interrupting them but soon Dick and Rosemary are kissing passionately. She tells him the timing is not good because she is having her menstrual period. He asks whether she is still a virgin and Rosemary is coy and avoids a direct answer. They go for a walk and she is as playful as a child and asks him to come to the movie set the following morning.
After lunch, Dick and Rosemary return to the hotel and consummate their relationship and what had “begun with a childish infatuation on a beach was accomplished at last” (213).
That evening, while Rosemary is out, Dick realizes that Nicole is still his girl. Later he runs into her sister and at dinner Baby suggests that perhaps Dick and Nicole’s marriage might have been a mistake after all and that perhaps Nicole could marry someone else. Dick says that if he didn’t love Nicole things might be different.
Realizing now that he doesn’t really love her only increases his desire for Rosemary and Dick questions her about her love life. Nicotera, the male lead in Rosemary’s movie, keeps calling and the jealous Dick realizes she is having an affair with the Italian. Rosemary tries to calm him down and promises to remain with him for her final night in town after she attends one more party.
While Rosemary is out, Dick begins drinking with Collis Clay in the Quirinal bar and soon they go to the Bonbonieri. He continues to drink and gets into an argument with the orchestra leader and dances with a young English girl. After Collis leaves and he gets into another fight with a taxi driver, the police are called in. He wakes up in handcuffs on the stone floor of a jail.
Baby Warren is called to rescue Dick and after a great deal of trouble involving the American Embassy, the American consulate, the exchange of much money and being mistaken for the prisoner who raped a five year-old girl, he is finally freed, feeling vastly humiliated. The Warrens, he knows, now possess a moral superiority over him.
One of the reason’s for Dick Diver’s dissatisfaction with his life lies in the fact that he is unhappy in his work at the clinic on the Zugersee. Although earlier on he had done extremely well as a scholar and practitioner of psychiatry, he has never been truly dedicated to the profession. This is apparent in the offhand manner in which he treats his patients. He got into the profession, after all, because he had been attracted to a girl who studied psychology. Simply, he is not happy and fulfilled and as he gets older he realizes that he will never be a great psychiatrist. Also, the idea that the clinic was purchased with his wife’s family’s money deeply disturbs him. Indeed, Fitzgerald would have us believe that money is the root cause of evil.
Although Dick was from the beginning attracted to Nicole, it is to her money ultimately that he surrenders and, in a manner, sacrifices his life. No doubt he enjoys the luxurious Villa Diana overlooking the Mediterranean and the luxurious lifestyle the couple enjoy, but he also resents “the house that Nicole had made, that Nicoles grandfather had paid for” (170). For a while he is careful about paying his own personal expenses for clothes and wine and such but in time he comes to feel that Nicole owns him like a possession. As a couple, they had even gone so far as to sign their letters with the combination “Dicole.” In a manner of speaking, Dick can never go home: he is always at work as Nicole’s psychiatrist. Feeling “deadened,” and lost to himself by Nicole’s dependence, after Nicole almost kills the entire family, he finally escapes to the conference in Berlin to attempt to find himself once again.
It is hardly surprising then that such containment and such overflowing resentment would cause Dick to increase his drinking. Indeed, Dick’s drinking acts as an indicator of the quality of his life. Earlier in the novel, he hardly drank so it’s somewhat of a surprise to find him sitting alone in his work room drinking gin in the middle of the day and downing almost an entire bottle on wine on the train with Nicole. In this regard he is like Abe North who ultimately, dies a violent death in a speakeasy bar.
While Abe North’s death affects him, it is the death of Dick’s father that represents that obliterates the remnants of Dick Diver’s moral foundation. He greatly admired his highly principled father, and indeed seems at this point to be a good father himself, but his father’s untimely death represents for Dick the loss of his moral compass and he becomes increasingly self-destructive. Metaphorically, his father’s death represents the final nail in the coffin of the old world he mused so poignantly about in Book I at the Amiens World War I memorial battlefield. By this point, Dick has given in completely to the decadent new world. When he says “good-by, my father—good-by, all my fathers” he is in essence saying goodbye to the self that he might have been, the person of whom his father would have been proud (205). Almost immediately after his father’s death Dick betrays Nicole by seeking out Rosemary to consummate what had “begun with a childish infatuation on a beach” (215).
Nicole also suffers alongside Dick. She feels that it’s impossible for her to form a true marriage bond with Dick or a genuine parental relationship with her children. Ironically, however, as time goes on it is the patient Nicole who moves toward full mental recovery while the psychiatrist Dick disintegrates mentally. Indeed, it seems that Nicole and Dick switch places. In addition, ever since the summer on the beach with Rosemary, Nicole realizes that Dick has a perverse eye for younger girls, just like her own father.
Dick’s fascination with increasingly younger girls also escalates. At one point, Nicole jeers at him to dance with the “ickle durls,” which means “little girls,” and he has to force himself not to ogle them to keep her calm (172). The incident that involves a fifteen year-old girl, whom he admits to kissing, reminds Nicole of the sexual abuse she suffered at her father’s hands when she was this age and causes her to have another mental breakdown. Dick is also mistaken for the rapist of a five year-old girl when he is brought into jail for fighting with a taxi driver. What type of a figure is he portraying to the crowd who jeer at him? He is certainly not the elegant well-clothed man who stood waiting for Rosemary outside the theatre. Indeed he is more like the seedy Abe North disheveled and shaken before he left Paris. Ironically, Doctor Diver the psychiatrist would perhaps inform Dick the patient that he is running away from his wife to act out and that he must face the root of his dissatisfaction if he is to gain any modicum of emotional comfort in his life.