The story shifts now to tell the history of Dick Diver. Dick had gone to Yale, been a Rhodes scholar, and followed Freud to Vienna to learn psychology. He lived a solitary scholar's life in Vienna, studying and researching for a book he planned to write while the war began around him. He moved to Zurich in 1917, completed his degree and, when American entered the war, was sent to France with a neurological unit. The story picks up on his return to Zurich after the war in 1919.
Dick meets with Franz Gregorovius, or Dr. Gregory as his American patients call him, a fellow student and a friend of Dick's. Dr. Gregory asks if Dick had come to see the girl, and we learn that Dick had met Nicole Warren as he was leaving for France in his military uniform, and she was checking into the Zurich clinic. Nicole had taken a liking to Dick, and had written him about fifty letters in the eight months he was stationed in France, excerpts of which appear interspersed in the text. The first letters display an unsound mind, but she begins to improve.
Dr. Gregory then tells the story of her illness. Mr. Devereux Warren, a wealthy man from Chicago, had admitted his daughter into the clinic, explaining that she had acquired an intense, and gradually more and more insane, fear of men. Mr. Warren left without telling the whole story, but Dr. Dohmler urged him to return. Mr. Warren narrated how after his wife died, he spent a great deal of time with Nicole, and they were very close. He tells how "We were just like lovers--and then all at once we were lovers." Dr. Dohmler ordered the incestuous father home to Chicago.
Dr. Gregory explains that Nicole's condition had improved considerably and that Dick had been instrumental in her improvement. They agree that Dick should treat her gently and Dick, who announces he wants to be the greatest psychologist to ever live, dines with Dr. Gregory and his modest bride. Dick meets Nicole and they spend a night talking and listening to phonograph records. The two do not see each other for some time while Dick works on a book and then meets with Dr. Gregory and Dr. Dohmler to discuss the case. They all agree that Dick ought to gently extricate himself from her life. Dick lets Nicole down gently, and she is upset, but not devastated.
We learn that Dick was not always wealthy nor did he always possess his inimitable social graces. Dick's impressive education and his zealous study helped him grow into the admirable person we saw through Rosemary's eyes in Book 1. The descriptions of Dick's times at Yale and his early hermit's habits indicate that Dick was not born so spectacular, but worked hard to become so. Many of his manners and graces are taught, not genetic. This makes his development seem parallel to that of McKisco, whose morning of dueling made him the success he was. Also, we learn that Dick was not rich. He married his money.
Nicole had truly been a "Daddy's Girl," growing up without her mother. The sexual relationship that developed between her and her father explains the source of her insanity and gives a sinister edge to the theme of the daddy's girl. Dick played a similar role in helping her regain her health. He acted as a symbolic father figure in helping her emerge from her condition. It is somewhat ironic, too, that Nicole fell in love with Dick in his military uniform and refers to him in her letters as a captain, not as a doctor. It suggests in Nicole a love of violence; and because the military man helps cure her, violence within the novel gains a therapeutic aspect.
Dick, in his very clinical and rational way, agrees that he must not continue to see Nicole, just as he very rationally and clinically told Rosemary why they could not have an affair. The fact that the reader knows that Dick and Nicole marry foreshadows the fact that his clinical denial of Rosemary will be aborted as well.
Far more important, though, are Dick's dreams and what he recognizes a marriage to Nicole would mean. Fitzgerald's ability to present the totality of a life in the shortest phrase is nowhere more apparent than when he writes of Dick's time as a reclusive scholar: "Most of us have a favorite, a heroic period, in our lives and that was Dick Diver's." In this period of his life, and in all of them leading up to the events of Book 1, Dick is presented as a driven and ambitious scholar, not the socialite that we have come to know. In his discussions with the other doctors, it is clearly observed that if Dick marries Nicole, she will become his life's work. He will be both her husband and her doctor and that will consume him. With this in mind, in line with the logic of his life, Dick agrees to terminate his relationship with her, although he has begun to have feelings for her.