Moreover it is confusing to come across a youthful photograph of some one known in a rounded maturity and gaze with a shock upon a fiery, wiry, eagle-eyed stranger. Best to be reassuring – Dick Diver’s moment now began (2.1.15).
This is confusing. We’ve just heard about Dick’s brilliance (he memorizes psychology books) and his passion for learning and for psychiatry. It is disorienting and a little spooky to hold that Dick up against the party animal Dick we’ve just met? What happened to his plans?
"No one comes to the Riviera in summer, so we expect to have a few guests and to work" (2.5.32).
Nicole has a plan for getting well. She wants to study while Dick works on his books. Her plan does not involve the endless party that ensued when their beach suddenly becomes the seat of fashion and glamour.
Dick didn’t want to talk – he wanted to be alone so that his thoughts about work and the future would overpower his thoughts of love and to-day (2.12.13).
Like Nicole, Dick thinks that doing meaningful work can save him from the problems in his life. But with all these problems and all these people, who can work?
"So many smart men go to pieces nowadays."
"And when haven’t they?" Dick asked. "Smart men play close to the line because they have to – some of them can’t stand it, so they quit" (1.22.53-54).
With intelligence often comes great ambition, right? Most of the people the Divers hang out with are like this. Dick is talking to Abe North and Nicole. Abe is a brilliant musician. But like Dick, he’s gotten caught up in the scene where ambition seems meaningless and success unattainable. The novel attributes some of this to the aftershocks of World War I. It explore the psychological impact of the war know one thought could happen.
[B]ack in Dohmler’s clinic on the Zurichsee, realizing this power, he had made his choice, chosen Ophelia, chosen the sweet poison and drunk it. Wanting above all to be brave and kind, he had wanted, even more than that, to be loved (3.10.3).
This passage indicates that in choosing the tragic figure of Nicole, Dick decided that being brave, kind and loved was more important than being the "best" in his field. When he returns to the clinic where he met Nicole, he sees the chance to have both. But things don’t quite go the way he hopes.
"He’ll be writing music in America and I’ll be working at singing in Munich, so when we get together again there’ll be nothing we can’t do" (1.14.21).
This is Mary North’s plan for her and Abe. But as we see, Abe flips the script, with tragic results. He ends up dying in an American speakeasy (a place where liquor was served during prohibition). Mary doesn’t fare as badly, and seems to recover from Abe’s death with a minimum amount of trauma.
"And I’ll look over the whole field of knowledge and pick out something and really know about it, so I’ll have it to hang on to if I go to pieces again" (2.10.30).
It’s important to notice how sincere Nicole is about trying to get well, and how seriously she takes learning. She’s a very ambitious woman. She’s a planner (think of her organizational skills) and a dreamer. In the life she’s caught up in, shopping and entertaining uproot her plans for study.
"There’s no mystery. I didn’t disgrace myself at the height of my career, and hide away on the Riviera. I’m just not practising. You can’t tell, I’ll probably practise again some day" (1.15.6).
This is right after Rosemary first hears that Dick is some kind of doctor. He hasn’t given up his dream to practice, but he makes it sound pretty distant in this moment.
"Beaten to death in a speakeasy."
This sentence haunts Dick as he moves toward his climactic breakdown. Abe North was once so full of promise. Remember when he first stayed with the Divers? He was in his room playing piano so much that the maid thought he was a ghost. This passage shows Abe’s dreams, hopes, and plans utterly crushed. And Abe is the only one in the group who actually dies. What do we make of that?
Perhaps, so she liked to think, his career was biding its time, again like Grant’s in Galena […] (3.13.3).
The novel refers several times to Ulysses S. Grant and thus evokes the American Civil War in addition to World War II. General Grant bought a home in Galena, Illinois, until he made his big career move and fought in the war. Dick’s home town is Buffalo, Illinois, and this is where Dick first returns when he and Nicole split up. Nicole holds out hope that Dick’s dreams and plans will come true.