Dexter Green changes in several very significant ways in the story. As a boy, he lives a working-class life in a working-class community, one that provides services for the wealthy people who live and play on Sherry Island across the lake from Dexter's home. Dexter has very little money, but he dreams of a life of wealth and glamour--the kind of life he observes among the rich people he sometimes works for.
By struggling to get an education at "classy" university (not a state college), Dexter further observes the wealthy upper class and patterns himself after the way these people dress, speak, and behave. He starts a business, builds it into a chain, and sells out, earning himself a great deal of money. As a rich young man, Dexter now moves in the social circles he once admired as an outsider. He has come a long way from the poor boy he used to be.
These are important changes in Dexter's lifestyle, but the most significant change in his character occurs through his love affair with Judy Jones. Dexter loses Judy, who represents for him every dream he ever had, but he keeps her memory in his heart and continues to live on it. When his memory of Judy is taken away from him in the story's conclusion, Dexter is robbed of his illusions, and he mourns their loss:
Even the grief he could have borne was left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his winter dreams had flourished.
"Long ago," he said, "long ago, there was something in me, but now that thing is gone. Now that thing is gone, that thing is gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back no more.
Reality has replaced romance in Dexter's life, and he will no longer be able to lose himself in his dreams.