F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Winter Dreams” shares many thematic similarities with the author’s masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby.” In both tales, a young man rises on the strength of talent and ambition to the heights of material success, yet ultimately fails to win the woman of his dreams. In many ways, “Winter Dreams” can be seen as “The Great Gatsby” in miniature, an experiment where Fitzgerald worked out the principal themes of the longer work. In fact, the side effects of capitalism and excessive materialism inform the thematic focus of "Winter Dreams."
The Problem of Wealth
The title of the work serves as a play on the notion of the American Dream. Dexter Green's notions of the happiness wealth would buy him, fostered during the springtime of his youth, are revealed as empty in the winter of his maturity. As an adolescent, Dexter becomes enchanted with the wealth he observes as a golf caddie. After some initial success in business, he becomes enamored with a socialite, Judy Jones. With Judy, Fitzgerald shows how individuals become commodities in a wealth-obsessed society. To all the men around her, Dexter included, Judy is nothing more than a pretty accouterment. Her physical beauty is repeatedly emphasized, as is her superficiality and callousness. At the end of the story, Dexter learns that Judy is a housewife in an unhappy marriage, and has lost her looks. Bereft of the trait that gave her value, Judy has become figuratively impoverished, thus revealing the barrenness of Dexter’s own dreams.