Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams"

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One of the most impactful works of F. Scott Fitzgerald is the “Winter Dreams.” It was first published in 1922 after which it is considered one of the writer’s best statements on the destructive nature of American life. The main characters, Dexter Green and Judy Jones, highlight the nature of American life before and slightly after the First World War. The writer expresses the rise of the country to a global economic superpower after the war, whereby Dexter represents the middle class while Judy is an example of the wealthy in the society. He also uses his characters to analyze the values and beliefs of the society about wealth. This study argues against the destructive nature of the American dream as displayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams.”

The Destructive Nature of the American Dream

            Fitzgerald expresses the American dream in everything, starting from the beautiful homes to religious freedom. Most non-Americans view the country as a place where good things take place, hence inspiring satisfaction, (Mangum 59). However, this dream is often unattainable by most citizens as well as residents. Dexter Green embraces his desire for status and wealth, having been raised in a middle-class family. These desires represent the character’s fixations on his winter dreams. According to him, the American dream entails gathering enough wealth, moving up the ladder of social status and becoming somebody in life.

            Dexter falls in love with a wealthy woman whose name is Judy Jones. Although she is a selfish and a shallow lady, Dexter views her as an explicit representation of the American dream. He becomes obsessed with the pursuit for both wealth and Judy, but the end he realizes that this was just an empty wish of his winter dream. The writer criticizes the nature of the American dream by characterizing Judy as a selfish and materialistic lady. He, in fact, contributes towards the prejudice that the rich only exist to gather more wealth at the expense of the poor.

            Judy helps Dexter understand how living in the upper class feels through her lifestyle. The writer made this clear by stating the Dexter not only wanted to associate with great people and thing but wanted the wealth itself, (Fitzgerald 1012). Judy is part of the glittering things that Dexter wants to acquire.

            The concept of the American dream has been represented as the pursuit of material success. The pursuit unintentionally controls Dexter's life to the extent that he fails to recognize that Judy stands at the center of his materialistic fantasies. Rather than pursuing his dreams, his attention is glued towards a woman who expresses the glamor of a wealthy life. He eventually starts believing that the only way he can unlock great wealth is through falling in love with Judy. She is the only representation of a luxurious and prosperous life to Dexter.

            Other than representing a wealthy lifestyle, Judy is also giving Dexter the hope of attaining a higher social status. Having a beautiful lady was one of his dreams since he was young. He passionately kisses Judy, paying attention to the mobility and the color of her mouth. It is at this point that he discovers he wanted Judy ever since he was a little kid, (Fitzgerald 1013).

            Fitzgerald characterizes Dexter as the hardworking and confident hero, who had clear aspirations since he was young. Although he is from a middle-class origin, he tends to deny it during his pursuit of status and wealth. The story begins by describing a young boy who works at the golf club, a place where he interacts and meets rich people. He aspires to be better than the members of the club by becoming an excellent skier, which would gain him the fame and the wealth he always dreamt of. His imagination of a happy future is characterized by the need to acquire high status and position. One of his best experiences while working at the yacht club is when he meets a beautiful girl, Judy Jones. Since he works under the supervision of her dad, Dexter does not like the idea of being assigned to caddy for her. He doesn’t want to be as one of her servants and struggles to impersonate a man of a higher financial class.

            The hero makes another attempt to attain his dreams when he enrolls in a prestigious campus despite his dad had paid for another university. He leads a hard life since he doesn’t have the money he needs to lead a luxurious life like his colleagues. After school, he starts a laundry organization in Minnesota which helps him earn a lot of cash. After some few years, he becomes successful in his organization that he is invited to play golf at the club where he used to work. The invitation means a lot to him since he had always wished to become a member of the club. Being a member meant that he was part of the famous and rich men. At this point, the writer displays the destructive side of attaining the American dream, since Dexter appreciates his self-made status and lacks respect for those who inherited wealth and luxury. This is an unfair representation of the rich in America since the writer does not include episodes that help the reader understand the need to respect other people’s social status, regardless of how they were attained.

            Despite having attained his desired financial position, just like many Americans, the hero still feels wanting regarding dreams realization. This is contributed by the fact that he fails to achieve his second largest dream, which is having a beautiful woman. His relationship with Judy is characterized with breakups even after his university education. This discontent feeling makes Dexter leave his successful laundry business and joins other soldiers to fight in the World War I. This shows how the failure to achieve the American dream changes one’s ambitions in life. Despite all the hard work and commitment, Dexter feels great confusion and fantasy between the reality and his wishes. Joining the military is displayed as an escape plan rather than a contingent or main plan in achieving one’s dreams in life. Serving the country in war is one of the dreams of most Americans who consider is as a priority in life.

            Dexter goes through a series of conflict resolution when he lives in New York. Although successful and living a luxurious life, the news about Judy make him feel frustrated. He considers his dream of Judy finally destroyed, and a reminder of his lost youth. According to Curnutt (42), most Americans suffer later in life after living dreams which never come true, just like Dexter. The story tells us about his two main dreams: attaining wealth and having a beautiful woman. He lives in his dreams and illusions since early childhood. After facing uncountable contradictions between reality and his dreams, Dexter faces frustration and the greatest disappointment in life.

            Bryer et al. (238) suggest that the “Winter Dreams” succeeds in showing the problem with the American dream. The failure to achieve one’s dream was not only destructive then, but also in the 20th and the current centuries. Most American youths have great expectations of a beautiful life, which if not attained brings about frustrations. The glamour and glitter associated with life in America attract many from other countries too, who expect the country to be a place where only good things happen. Dexter and his dream of a luxurious life and status is an embodiment of many in his generation who saw many opportunities but only turned out to be false aspirations and dreams. The emotional and physical suffering that many go through once they fail to achieve their dreams is destructive.


            The short story paints a bleak portrait of most Americans’ lives. Fitzgerald uses two characters: Dexter and Judy, to express the nature of the American dream. Dexter is a young man from a middle-level origin whose ambition is to gain wealth and status in life. He meets a beautiful woman as he works in a golf club that becomes his second ambition. After campus, he starts a laundry business which becomes successful and generates a lot of money. However, the failure to have Judy as his woman makes him frustrated and decides to leave the business and fight in the First World War. The story represents the frustration that most Americans go through when they fail to achieve their dreams.

Works Cited

Bryer, Jackson R., Alan Margolies, and Ruth Prigozy, eds. F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Perspectives. University of Georgia Press, 2000.

Curnutt, Kirk, ed. A historical guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oxford University Press on Demand, 2004.

Fitzgerald, Francis Scott. Winter dreams. Booklassic, 2015.

Mangum, Bryant. "The short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald."The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald (2002): 57-78.

November 24, 2023



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