The only novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald that I’ve read is The Great Gatsby which I loved. While I was reading Winter Dreams, it reminded me a lot of The Great Gatsby, and indeed Winter Dreams had been like a first draft idea of Gatsby. According to Matthew J. Bruccoli, an expert on Fitzgerald, Winter Dreams “Like the novel, examines a boy whose ambitions become identified with a selfish rich girl. Indeed, Fitzgerald removed Dexter Green’s response to Judy Jones’ home from the magazine text and wrote it into the novel as Jay Gatsby’s response to Daisy Fay’s home.”
Dexter Green is Winter Dreams‘ Jay Gatsby. The story begins when Dexter is a fourteen-year-old lad working at a golf course as a caddie, and it is at that golf course he first sets his eyes on Judy Jones. We can see Judy is trouble from the moment they meet. Even at eleven, Judy is “beautifully ugly as little girls are apt to be who are destined after a few years to be inexpressibly lovely and bring no end of misery to a great number of men,” and at the golf course, Judy throws her first tantrum when she doesn’t get what she wants.
A few years later when Dexter and Judy meet again, Dexter has pursued the American dream and owns a successful business in the Midwest. Judy doesn’t recognize Dexter, nonetheless asks him out on a date. The dinner takes an awkward turn when Judy starts crying and tells Dexter that the man she was seeing had confessed he is poor. Dexter should have realized how fickle and self-centered Judy is then, but he is blinded by his love for her. So he continues to see her even when she is cheating on him with other men.
Finally, unable to take it any more Dexter breaks off his relationship with Judy. He then meets Irene, a lovely young girl whose parents adore him, and on a night before their engagement is announced, quite unsurprisingly Judy comes back to Dexter’s life promising to marry him if he’d still have her! The poor fool once again falls for Judy’s lies and breaks Irene’s heart over an affair that doesn’t last longer than a month! 😐 After the breakup, to get over the “webs of tangled emotion,” Dexter enlists in the army and goes to war.
When we see Dexter again seven years later, he is in New York and enjoying riches of life more than ever. At his office, Dexter meets Devlin, a business associate who informs him about Judy’s life. Judy had married a man younger to her, a cheating drunk who ill-treats her while she stays at home looking after their children. Devlin tells Judy’s looks have faded too, and it devastates Dexter to hear that because he realizes he too has lost his youth and his adolescent “winter dreams.”