Winter Dreams Summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Winter Dreams

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Winter Dreams Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The preeminent literary voice to capture the self-indulgent status seeking spirit of the denizens of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald published the short story Winter Dreams in Metropolitan Magazine in 1922 and included it in his 1926 collection All the Sad Young Men.  In it, Dexter Green is a self-made man attempting to elevate his social position while pursuing his ideal woman.  Similarities to the title character of Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby are more than coincidental.  The author wrote Winter Dreams while formulating the early stages of Gatsby.  There is also an autobiographical component to Winter Dreams as Fitzgerald, like Dexter, was raised as a member of the Midwestern middle class and summered at White Bear Lake which was not unlike the exclusive Black Bear Lake of the short story.  Fitzgerald composed numerous other stories in the same period that along with Winter Dreams became the basis for Gatsby and are referred to as the “Gatsby Cluster”.

The story opens with a fourteen-year-old Dexter, the son of one of his town’s grocery store owners working as a caddy at a local golf club.  It is wintertime which has harsh effects on Dexter’s state of mind.  He falls into melancholy moods and he has hallucinations about golf games.  Dexter meets Judy Jones at the golf club.  She conducts herself in a way that makes it clear that she is spoiled.  She is just eleven years old and is described of as being unattractive, but as also possessing a beauty that will eventually emerge with her coming of age.  She is demanding and wants Dexter to serve her as her caddy.  When she storms off leaving her bag on the course for Dexter to retrieve, Dexter quits his job rather than having to wait on her.  He and his boss are equally taken aback by his action, a situation which decades later is echoed in the story A&P in John Updike’s 1962 collection Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories when Sammy the cashier quits his job in the wake of the three bathing suit clad girls who enter the store in defiance of the rules.

By the time Dexter is twenty-three he has a laundry business that is doing well.  He knows by that time that he wants his own wealth, not just to be close to it.  He becomes a member of the golf club and sees his past fantasies of beating T.A. Hedrick become reality although it does not feel impressive to him as Hedrick is not a strong golfer.  Judy reenters Dexter’s life while playing golf at the club and in keeping with the self-centered attitude of her youth, is not the least bit concerned when she hits Hedrick with a ball.  As had been foreshadowed she is indeed now a beautiful woman to whom Dexter is attracted at once.  She asks him to drive her boat so that she can surf behind it. She is enthralled by the speed, which further draws Dexter to her.  She asks him to dinner where he learns that she is disenchanted with the man in her life because he had pretended to be wealthy but is not.  She is moved by Dexter’s wealth and kisses him.  In spite of Judy taking on a series of suitors and neglecting Dexter, he dedicates himself to her in a manner that Fitzgerald later will replicate with Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.  Dexter becomes engaged to a girl named Irene hoping to rekindle Judy’s interest in him.  He does not know how to respond when Judy suggest that she wishes he would marry her.  He does not tell Judy about Irene, but gets back into a relationship with Judy.

The reconnection lasts only a month at which point Dexter has lost Irene as well as any connection to her family with whom he had been friendly.  He comes to realize that Judy was unobtainable in spite of his love for her.  He sells his business and goes to war to avoid his feelings.  Seven years pass and he learns from an acquaintance that Judy is unhappily married to a man who mistreats her and that her beauty has faded.  Dexter knows that the Judy he was smitten with no longer exists.

In his youth, Dexter was idealistic.  At that point in time it did not matter whether or not he was wealthy.  Life offered endless opportunities.  Getting old means having fewer opportunities and facing loss in life.  Judy loses her beauty while Dexter loses the idealized woman to whom he devoted his life.  At the end of the story Dexter has lost not just Judy but part of himself and can no longer live via his memories of youth and dreams.  Dexter was a romantic who ends up enveloped in sadness.  Gatsby too is a romantic who ends up engulfed by sadness and faces an even more tragic end that did Dexter.