What is a theme that can be compared between The Great Gatsby and "Winter Dreams"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The frailty of dreams is a comparable theme between The Great Gatsby and "Winter Dreams."

The ability to dream is a very important theme in both of Fitzgerald's works. Jay Gatsby's dreams animate him.  He embraces the idea that if he thinks it, it will be so.  His entire identity arises from a "Platonic conception of himself." He remakes himself from Jay Gatz, a midwestern rube, into the elegant and dashing Jay Gatsby.  He believes that materialism can accomplish his dream of winning Daisy's heart and this becomes his reality. However, his dreams are fundamentally weak.  They are hollow because they lead to disillusionment.  Gatsby acquires his money through illegal means and his hopes never materialize.  His dreams were "vague contours" that lacked anything else to them. Everything Gatsby dreams is based in materialism or social acceptance. Permanence is passed over for the glittering allure of the temporary. Fitzgerald's idea of "a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing" is an appropriate description of the weakness in Gatsby's dreams.

This same tendency can be seen in Dexter's dreams in "Winter Dreams." Like Gatsby, Dexter is self-made. Similar to Gatsby, Dexter is motivated by his dreams of Judy Jones. His entire reason for being is to acquire "glittering things," of which Judy is the ultimate prize. As with Gatsby, what he pursues is ultimately hollow.  It is a reflection of the temporary nature of his dreams. Dexter worked towards dreams that paralleled Gatsby's "vague contours" in that they lacked a sense of solid stability to them. Dexter passes over that which is stable in favor of something more elusive.  He rejects the "sturdily popular Irene" because of the dream of Judy.  Dexter's frail dreams are on display at the end of the short story.  When Dexter weeps, he does so because "that thing is gone."

When comparing the the ability to dreams in both works, I would pay attention to the quality of Dexter's and Jay's dreams.  In both, there is a belief in the power of dreams. However, these dreams are rooted in materialism and lack substance. Accordingly, Fitzgerald shows how both sets of dreams are ultimately frail and weak. 

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The Great Gatsby

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