Editor's Choice

In "Winter Dreams," why does Dexter lie about his hometown?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Black Bear, Dexter's actual hometown, symbolizes all the things he tries to distance himself from in adulthood. It is a "footstool," used by the wealthy for its resources, but not fashionable enough to live in. It is noted early in the story that "after college [Dexter] went to the city from which Black Bear Lake draws its wealthy patrons." The Black Bear area, then, is funded by wealthy visitors, and this is exactly the life that Dexter wants to distance himself from. He wants the "glittering things" in life, and people who possess those things do not live in Black Bear. They live in more fashionable places, like the city, and therefore Dexter begins to recreate his own narrative, fashioning for himself a life that is more "glittering" for his intended social circles.

This is why Dexter is relieved when he finds out he will not have to engage in small talk with Judy Jones's parents on the evening when Judy invites him to dinner. He surmises that the men who typically enjoy dinner with Judy Jones are like the men he met when he went to college, "with graceful clothes and the deep tan of healthy summers." And Dexter wishes that their background was also his background, yet "in acknowledging to himself that he wished his children to be like them he was admitting that he was but the rough, strong stuff from which they eternally sprang."

So Dexter lies because he struggles to reconcile his beginnings with his future. Dexter is greatly ambitious, designing his life so that he maximizes his economic potential. He feels that being associated with Black Bear would harm his image in social circles, so he invents a different hometown to be more socially impressive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dexter is very ambitious and believes that the facts about his upbringing will not be conducive to his ascent in the social circles which he aspires to inhabit. As he engages in a process of self-mythologizing, he reinvents his past to fit his perceptions of an acceptable rags-to-riches story. While he thinks that important people he meets will be suitably impressed by his having moved up from a small-town background, he prefers to name a town with which people are less likely to be familiar; Black Bear Village is “conveniently in sight.” He expects that no one will check on his story. His omission of Black Bear Village is a white lie, in that he did actually live in Keeble at one point. This particular lie represents his more general acute sensitivity to the probable perceptions of others.

Although Dexter works hard to become successful, the price of ambition is revealed in his days as a caddy. Simply performing well at the job he actually has can never be enough for him. He cares too much about others’ opinions, dreaming of garnering praise for excelling at skills he does not even possess. This exaggerated need for praise factors into his desire for Judy, who seems less important as a person than a symbol of what he hopes to achieve.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As a young man, Dexter has created an image of himself that does not suit the perceptions others have of his hometown of Black Bear Village. He denies his true hometown, assuming the town of Keeble, where he was born, as his hometown, because the implications of growing up in Black Bear Village are not consistent with the urbane self he chooses to put forth.

The narrator of Fitzgerald's short story "Winter Dreams" describes Dexter's true hometown of Black Bear Village as a "footstool," one that is used "by fashionable lakes" nearby. This metaphor suggests that Dexter's village is one that only has significance due to its proximity to other more sophisticated places. A footstool is an item of furniture that supports the feet of the person using it; this image conveys a servile character to Dexter's village, one that is emphasized by Dexter's role as golf caddy at the beginning of the story. Like Dexter, who is essentially a servant for the wealthy golfers at the Sherry Island Golf Club, his hometown of Black Bear Village is a servant for the larger communities nearby, and therefore it is on lower social footing.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Fitzgerald's story, Dexter Green is a young man who comes from limited economic circumstances, works hard, and becomes wealthy. He patterns himself after the wealthy people he had observed as boy, in his dress, for instance, as well as in his manners. Dexter tries hard to remake himself in the image of those he considers glamorous, the social "insiders."

Dexter was born in Keeble, described as a "Minnesota village," fifty miles north of Black Bear Village where he grew up. Dexter always claimed Keeble, rather than Black Bear, because it seemed more socially acceptable. Black Bear Village seemed unacceptable to him because it was filled with those who provided services for the wealthy class who inhabited Sherry Island nearby. Dexter observed about Keeble, "Country towns were well enough to come from if they weren't inconveniently in sight and used as footstools by fashionable lakes."

Dexter claims Keeble because he is ashamed to identify himself with Black Bear Village and those who lived there. Dexter remembers that his mother was a Bohemian peasant who had spoken in broken English all her life. His father owned the second-best grocery store. Dexter claims Keeble instead of Black Bear Village because he seeks to separate himself from the social class into which he was born.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial