Short Story ‘Winter Dreams’ | Analysis

F.Scott Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams” documents the life of Dexter Green, “a young man from a modest background who strives to be a part of the exclusive world inhabitated by the women he loves” (Perkins 1). The work regards a period in Dexter Greens life, from the age of fourteen to thirty two. Fitzgerald divides the story into six episodes through those eighteen years, and each episode relates to Dexter’s relationship to Judy Jones. Judy’s love is what Dexter yearns for; she pushes him to his vision of the perfect life filled with “glittering things”, wealth and a high social status (Fitzgerald 423). The life Dexter desires is the American Dream in being successful, but it does not always mean being happy, Fitzgerald uses the elements of symbolism, and imagery throughout his short story “Winter Dreams” to represent his theme.

“Winter Dreams” signifies more than the basic understanding of the title. The symbolism used in the title, adds a depth to the story and displays the theme of the unhappy, wealthy life. Throughout the years Dexter’s life changes and “the aging process is signified by the word ‘winter’ in the title, but ‘winter’ also signifies a transition that is more tragic than physical deterioration; by the end of the story, Dexter’s emotions have become frozen” (Gidmark 2). Gidmark shows the double meaning, symbolism in the word “winter” by explaining both its connotations. Not only does the word winter stand for the weakening of Dexter, but it also signifies how his mood and feelings become iced up, and unchangeable because of his heart break. The first introduction of Dexter’s dream is described as, “[it] happened to be concerned at first with musings on the rich, […] he wanted not association with glittering things and glittering people-he wanted the glittering things themselves” (Fitzgerald 423). The “glittering things” include money and success which Dexter yearns for. Not only does he want to associate with them, he also wants the achievement to be his own. Gidmark clearly analyzes Judy’s role in the short story, “[she] is the picture of passion and beauty, energy and loveliness, the true love and true dream that are with him until, learning of Judy’s decline, he recognizes it as a signal of the demise of his own dreams” (2). Judy is what keeps Dexter’s dream going on, and without her his dream comes to a termination. According to Prigozy, Judy Jones “comes to symbolize both the beauty and the mereticiousness of Dexter’s dreams- is clearly revealed as cruelly, coldly destructive” (1). Even though his dream of Judy keeps him going, she is also a negative influence upon him because of her bitter heart. Judy’s image to the world shows her as living a very pleased life with new men on her tail constantly, but inside she is alone and scared. Dexter’s youthful winter dreams became very closely related to Judy Jones and his love for her that, “the imaginative present in which she remains alive for Dexter also preserves that youthful richness” (Clinton 405). His need for her approval of the triumphant American lifestyle is what keeps his dream and himself lively. Fitzgerald displays what is going on, “The dream was gone. Something had been taken from him” (435). Gidmark explicates Fitzgerald’s quote, about when Dexter loses the capability of feeling and caring, he states, “[Dexter’s] ‘dream’ of Judy had kept him energetic, passionate, and alive, and now the dream has been taken from him”, (2). Judy and Dexter’s relationship ended a while back, but Dexter still latched on to his dream.

Imagery in the short story, “Winter Dreams” produces mental pictures in one’s head, depicting the theme. The images are used in order to, “[keep] alive his love for Judy Jones and the brightness of his youthful winter dreams in the only way the past can remain alive- by fixing its images out of time and the real world in an imaginative present” (Burhans 4). In the beginning of the story, Dexter describes the Minnesota winter “[it] shut down like the white lid of a box” (Fitzgerald 421). The scenery mirrors his depression, because while he wants a golden future he is living in a dark cold life. The simile depicts how Dexter views his dreams, by being shut down and closed. Fitzgerald utilizes another simile about Dexter, “when he crossed the hills the wind blew cold as misery” (Fitzgerald 421). The simile draws a mental picture, and the word “misery” describes the melancholy currently in his life. Dexter grows and starts to become a successful man, suddenly, “the sun went down with a riotous swirl of gold and varying blue and scarlets, and left the dry, whistling night of Western summer” (Fitzgerald 425). Now the dark images of the landscape have transformed into a delightful scene, because Judy and Dexter’s relationship begins. Fitzgerald uses “gold” in the setting to represent Judy, and the gold in the images is present when Dexter is still reaching for his dream. Dexter is informed that Judy’s perfect life is now turned into a tragedy. She is married to a man who treats her poorly, and her beautiful charm is gone. After his harsh realization of Judy’s present life Dexter feels, “The grief [I] could have borne was left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where [my] winter dreams had flourished” (Fitzgerald 436). He becomes emotionless, and his dreams quickly become the past. Shattered, he is now feeling vacant and lonely because his ideal girl is suffering. Burhans expresses how Dexter is in misery when he cannot remember the beautiful scenery, “gone, too is a part of himself also deeply associated with and still alive in these images: the fragile moment in time when youth and his winter dreams were making his life richer and sweeter than it would ever be again” (2). The earlier illustrations, “green and open spaces of the golf-course days in Minnesota are gone, replaced by the constricting, cold, grey cement and steel of a skyscraper” (Flibbert 2). The cold and grey construct an image of bitter and lonesomeness. He cannot revive the green grass and yellow sun shining; now the picture is substituted with a harsh one. Fitzgerald explains Dexter’s emotions, “he had married Judy Jones and seen her fade away before his eyes” (435). He held Judy in the most special place within himself and now his perfect image of her is destructed. He cannot revitalize her beautiful face, with his realization of her, his images have disappeared.

Throughout the short story, “Winter Dreams” by F.Scott Fitzgerald, the theme of the ideal American life, of money and wealth is represented. The dream of this particular lifestyle does not consider one truly being happy or not. The protagonist in the story, Dexter achieves this life but ends with a tragic downfall. He starts off wanting to be successful and once he achieves his goal, Judy Jones comes into his life. She is the continuous “dream” in his life, and when he discovers that Judy has ended up unhappy his dream shatters. He ends up unhappy and “frozen”. Fitzgerald uses literary devices, such as symbolism and imagery to prove his theme in an intellectual way, with depth.