Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Fitzgerald’s direct narrative style is as clear and straightforward as Dexter’s romantic purpose. The flashbacks and gaps in the story mirror Dexter’s on-again, off-again affair with Judy, though his unswerving obsession with her and the chronicle of it is emphasized here. Fitzgerald’s tale uses poetic language and diction, yet it does not imply more than it states, and, in the story’s episodic structure of fits and starts, it is loose enough to accommodate some things that are almost irrelevant. Dexter’s business success, for example, is fortuitous; the real attraction and attention of the protagonist and the reader is his private life.
The third-person limited omniscient point of view allows the reader to know Dexter’s story exclusively through Dexter’s thoughts and reactions to what is happening. It is necessary to remember that Dexter is a romantic idealist and that his temperament is responsible for both his idealization of Judy and his subsequent disillusionment.
Dexter’s enchantment with Judy and the vitality he draws from her are symbolized by the color and sparkle Fitzgerald uses to present her and to create a context in which Dexter can contemplate her. When he first sees her as a young woman, Dexter notices the blue gingham edged with white that shows off Judy’s tan; then, later in the afternoon, the sun is sinking “with a riotous swirl of gold and varying blues and scarlets” and Dexter swims among waters of...
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The Jazz Age
In the aftermath of World War I American society went through a period of dramatic change. Traditional beliefs in God, country, and humanity were shaken as Americans faced the devastation of a war of this magnitude. The feelings of confusion and dislocation that resulted led to a questioning and often a rejection of conventional morality and beliefs. In the 1920s, Americans recognized that an old order had been replaced by a new, freer society, one that adopted innovative fashions in clothing, behavior, and the arts. Fitzgerald called this decade the ‘‘Jazz Age,’’ which along with the ‘‘roaring twenties’’ came to express the cultural revolution that was then taking place.
During this era of Prohibition, Americans experimented with expressions of personal and social freedom in dress, sexuality, and lifestyle. Women cut their hair and wore shapeless ‘‘flapper’’ dresses that gave then an androgynous look. Premarital sex began to lose its stigma, and exciting developments in musical styles pulled whites into predominantly black neighborhoods. The pursuit of pleasure, especially as related to the accumulation of wealth, became a primary goal, overturning traditional notions of hard work, social conformity, and respectability. Literary historian Margot Norris in her essay ‘‘Modernist Eruptions’’ notes that during this age, ‘‘the...
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Fitzgerald employs a third person omniscient narrator in ‘‘Winter Dreams,’’ but with an innovative twist. The narrator almost becomes a separate persona in the story, as he occasionally steps back from the plot and speaks directly to the reader, giving his critical perspective on the characters or on the action. Fitzgerald borrows this technique from Joseph Conrad who, in works like Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, creates the character Marlow, a seasoned sailor who narrates the story of the main characters through his sometimes subjective perspective. Fitzgerald perfected this technique in The Great Gatsby in the character of Nick Carraway, the naïve Midwesterner whose task it is to pin down the enigmatic Gatsby for his audience.
In ‘‘Winter Dreams,’’ Fitzgerald does not name his character, but his presence is felt nevertheless. The first time his voice emerges is at the opening of Part II, where he tells readers, ‘‘of course the quality and the seasonability of [Dexter's] winter dreams varied.’’ The inclusion of ‘‘of course’’ adds an almost conspiratorial note, as if the narrator is communicating a hidden detail of Dexter's character, one of which Dexter is not aware.
Later, in Part IV, he speaks more directly to the reader...
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Compare and Contrast
1920s: The Flapper, who presents a new, freer female image, becomes the model for young American women.
Today: Women model themselves after a wide-range of role models, from popular cultural icons to political, historical or international figures.
1920s: As a result of the decade's spirit of experimentation, sexual mores loosen and young men and women begin to engage in premarital sex.
Today: The epidemics of AIDS and unwanted pregnancies prompt schools to augment sex education in the classroom, where one of the options stressed is abstinence.
1920s: After the devastation of World War I Americans turn to a pursuit of happiness through the acquisition of wealth. Their extravagant and unchecked spending habits contribute to the economic crisis America experiences at the end of the decade.
Today: After a decade of unprecedented and unrealistic spikes in the stock market, the Dow has dropped considerably. As a result, many lose their jobs in corporate downsizing and restructuring.
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Topics for Further Study
- Read over the passage where Dexter skis on the snow-covered fairways and feels a sense of melancholy. Write a poem or a short sketch describing a scene in nature and your—or a character's—emotional response to it.
- Read one of the other stories in Fitzgerald's collection All the Sad Young Men and compare its style and themes to that of ‘‘Winter Dreams.’’
- If you were going to make a film version of the story, how would you cinematically represent Dexter's ‘‘winter dreams?’’
- Investigate the consequences the Depression had on the lives of Americans who had been wealthy during the 1920s. How many lost their fortunes? How did they survive?
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What Do I Read Next?
- Fitzgerald's highly celebrated novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), shares many of the same themes as ‘‘Winter Dreams.’’
- Fitzgerald's ‘‘Rich Boy’’ presents a different view of a young man enamored with the world of the rich.
- The Sun Also Rises (1926), by Ernest Hemingway one of Fitzgerald's ‘‘lost generation’’ compatriots, focuses on a group of disillusioned Americans living in Paris after World War I.
- Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s (The American Moment) (1999), by David J. Goldberg, presents an overview of this fascinating decade and focuses specifically on how World War I affected American society.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Anderson, W. R. ‘‘F. Scott Fitzgerald,’’ in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 4: American Writers in Paris, 1920-1939. Gale Research, 1980, pp. 132-50.
Flibbert, Joseph. '‘‘Winter Dreams’: Overview,’’ in Reference Guide to Short Fiction, 1st ed. St. James Press, 1994.
Norris, Margot. ‘‘Modernist Eruptions,’’ in The Columbia History of the American Novel, edited by Emory Elliot. Gale Research, 1989,311-30.
Prigozy, Ruth. ‘‘F. Scott Fitzgerald,’’ in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 86: American Short-Story Writers, 1910-1945, First Series. Gale Research, 1989, pp. 99-123.
Review, in Bookman, May 1926.
Berman, Ronald. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties. University of Alabama Press, 2001. Berman presents a penetrating analysis of the literary world in the 1920s.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Mary Jo Tate. F. Scott Fitzgerald A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. Facts on File, 1998. Bruccoli and Tate focus on the life and literary works of Fitzgerald and his wife.
Donaldson, Scott. Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald: The Rise and Fall of a Literary Friendship. Overlook Connection Press, 1999. This work explores the friendship and rivalry between these two lost generation authors....
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Berman, Ronald. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.
Berman, Ronald. “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Jay Gatsby. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. New Essays on “The Great Gatsby.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.
Curnutt, Kirk, ed. A Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1977.
Gale, Robert L. An F. Scott Fitzgerald Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Gross, Dalton, and MaryJean Gross. Understanding “The Great Gatsby”: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Kuehl, John. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991.
Lee, A. Robert, ed. Scott Fitzgerald: The Promises of Life....
(The entire section is 236 words.)