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Although written in 1933, Tender is the Night is truly a modern, realistic novel, depicting the tragic demise of Dick Diver. In its presentation, it is a complex story told out of chronological order. The story begins in Book One after the marriage of Nicole and Dick Diver has begun to deteriorate. Dick is pictured as being infatuated with Rosemary, an American teenage movie actress vacationing on the French Riviera. Book Two goes back in time to give Background Information on both Dick and Nicole; it also explains the circumstances of their marriage. Book Three again jumps ahead to show the disintegration of the Diver marriage and the tragic decline of Dick into alcoholism and uselessness.
In spite of the fact that the book is constantly interrupted by flashbacks, Fitzgerald ties it into a unified whole, indicating the outcome for all characters even when the details are missing. The book ends where it begins - on the beach of the French Riviera; but things have greatly changed between the two scenes. In the interim, the protagonist, Dick Diver, has been challenged by his self-indulgence and succumbs. The plot does not follow a normal time order, but by the end of the book, the construction of the plot is obvious. After an introduction to Dick, Nicole, and Rosemary, the three main characters of the book, the rising action begins when Dick succumbs to his infatuation with Nicole, even though he knows it puts his professional career in jeopardy. He marries her largely for her wealth and quickly tires of being her “kept” husband and psychiatrist. As a result, he develops an infatuation with Rosemary and chases her to Italy and then Provence. As his marriage disintegrates before him, he drowns his misery in alcohol. The climax occurs when he admits to Nicole that he has been with Rosemary in Provence, a fact that motivates her to acknowledge that the marriage is over. The falling action takes place as she tells Dick that she loves Tommy Barban and wants a divorce. The conclusion shows Dick in America, wandering from place to place, unable to hold a job and drinking himself into oblivion.