Discuss what "materialistic culture" means in "Winter Dreams."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Winter Dreams," "materialistic culture" refers to an excessive attention paid to objects at the cost of emotional depth.

The allure of a materialistic culture impacts Dexter and Judy. Dexter is described as one who covets "glittering things" and seeks "out for the best without knowing why he wanted it." Dexter's obsession with a materialist culture is seen in how he is not really in control of his desire for objects. It is a setting where the consumption of "things" is prized above all. His pursuit of "things" comes at the cost of emotional connection. This can be seen in how he does not acknowledge the pain he causes Irene and her parents when he breaks off their engagement because of his pursuit of Judy Jones. When Fitzgerald writes that there is "nothing pictorial" about Irene's grief, it reflects how a culture of materialism has supplanted Dexter's emotional frame of reference.

Materialism becomes the reason Dexter pursues Judy. In Dexter's mind, Judy represents the most glittering of "glittering things." His attempts to woo her are rooted in materialism. Dexter knows that she will be impressed with his statement that he isĀ "probably making more money" than any other man in the region. A culture of materialism where one's value is strictly determined by wealth and its trappings is a significant part of Dexter's romance of Judy.

When Judy directly asks Dexter if he is poor, it is a reflection of how a materialist culture impacts her as well. Judy might be able to love men who were "as poor as a church mouse," but the reality is that she likes wealth. Judy wants to be seen with wealthy men and lives for an image that emphasizes wealth over all else. As a result, she is incapable of sustaining real emotional exchanges with anyone. Fitzgerald shows how a materialist culture can impact the way an individual perceives themselves and their world. Judy's embrace of a materialist culture translates to a failure to recognize that which is permanent and lasting.