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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The story takes place almost entirely in Europe, mostly in France and Switzerland. The major characters are Americans, and they have come to Europe for a variety of reasons, from mental health to education, from leisure to filmmaking. Much of the action in books one and three (the beginning and end of the novel) takes place in Tarmes, a small town on the French coast between Marseilles and the Italian border. The story starts in about 1925 and ends in approximately 1935. The characters are typical Fitzgerald types: wealthy, lost, idle, clever and "unwell."
LIST OF CHARACTERS
A handsome young man in his twenties. Dick is in Germany for medical school--specifically to study psychiatry with the great doctors of the day. He is a Rhodes scholar and a very promising young man. He is serious about his psychiatric work and also about a young, wealthy female patient he meets towards the end of World War I. Against his own sense of better judgment, he marries Nicole. At first he is considered to be very clever and proper within her wealthy social set; but as time passes, he loses control of himself. His wife's money and position bother him, and he begins drinking. Dick then experiences a slow and steady downward spiral.
Nicole Warren (Diver)
Tthe wealthy wife of Dick Diver whom he meets in a German psychiatric hospital. Only eighteen years of age, she has been diagnosed as "tending towards schizophrenic." Sexually abused by her father, she is very insecure; but she falls in love with Dick Diver, a psychiatric medical student who works at the hospital. When she recovers, she marries him. Always given to sudden outbursts and lacking self-will, she is treated very carefully, even though she is clever. She is, however, considered one of the most beautiful women in European/American society. At the start of the novel, she is twenty-four and has two small children. As her husband’s condition worsens, her condition significantly improves.
A successful film actress who is only seventeen when she first meets the Divers. Taking a break from her career, she is vacationing on the French coast with her mother. She is a happy, self-assured young lady, bursting with American robust health and good looks. Because of her youth, she does not always know how to handle herself; she also seeks adventures. Rosemary falls in love with Dick Diver in an innocent and easily distracted way. During her relationship, she grows quite diplomatic and be comes very nice.
A German psychiatrist who is a young colleague of Dick. He is later Dick’s partner in a clinic at Zurich. He is strong and steady and sees Dick as an extremely promising psychiatrist, worshipping him as others do. As time passes, he sees Dick's mistakes and knows that Dick is not developing professionally. Finally, he buys the clinic from him.
Mrs. Elsie Speers
Rosemary's mother, who is an ideal stage mother. She wants her daughter to be well balanced and able to take care of herself. Mrs. Speers has buried two husbands and risked her savings on Rosemary’s career. At the beginning of the novel, she manages her daughter’s acting and serves as her best friend; however, she is eager to retire and wants Rosemary to head off on her own and do well. She thinks Dick Diver would be good for Rosemary and encourages the relationship.
A half-French, half-American mercenary soldier. He is a stout defender of the Divers and even fights a duel over their honor. He, like all of their friends, drifts in and out of their lives, going off, coming back, leaving again, and then encountering them once more by accident. Tommy is snide and sure of himself. He loves Nicole and marries her near the end of the book.