Fitzgerald wrote his short story “Winter Dreams” while he was drafting The Great Gatsby, which became one of the most celebrated novels of all time. The two works share several thematic and stylistic elements as they each center on a young man from a modest background who strives to be a part of the exclusive world inhabited by the woman he loves. A close comparison of the two works will reveal that while The Great Gatsby becomes a more complex and penetrating critique of the pursuit of the wealth and status, the short story stands on its own as a compelling portrait of a man who is forced to face the illusory nature of his “winter dreams.”
There are strong similarities between Jay Gatsby and Dexter Green. Although Dexter, unlike Gatsby, came from a middle-class background, (his father owned the “second-best” grocery-store in his town), he subscribes to the same American dream as does Gatsby, who grew up in poverty. Both spent their . . . Read More
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 In the 1920s, Americans recognized that an old order had been replaced by a new, freer society, one that adopted innovative fashions in clothing, behavior, and the arts.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 . . . Read More
fFitzgerald 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 naive 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 . . . Read More
Dexter’s vision of success involves a pursuit of the American dream of wealth and status. As Fitzgerald traces Dexter’s movement toward this goal, he becomes, in essence, a social historian of his generation, chronicling the dreams of the men and women of the 1920s who saw unlimited opportunities in the new century. Even as a teenager, Dexter dreams of success. While working at a local golf course, he fantasizes about becoming a golf champion and winning matches against the wealthy men for whom he caddies, or dazzling them with his expert diving exhibitions. Later, his dreams involve his movement up into the wealthy class where he would be rich enough to marry Judy Jones. She becomes the embodiment of his “winter dreams” of a glittering world with endless glamour and promise.
Dexter eventually gains wealth and status due to two qualities that are inherent in the American character: hard work and . . . Read More
Devlin is a business associate of Dexter’s. He tells Dexter that Judy’s beauty has faded and she has become a passive housewife to an alcoholic and abusive husband.
The story follows its main character, Dexter Green, over several years of his life. Fourteen at the beginning of the story, he is confident and full of ‘ ‘winter dreams” of a golden future. He feels superior to the other caddies, who are “poor as sin,” since he works only for pocket-money. He continually daydreams in “the fairways of his imagination” about gloriously besting the men for whom he caddies or dazzling them with fancy diving exhibitions.
The enterprising and resourceful young Dexter performs his duties expertly and so becomes the caddy most in demand at the club. As Mr. Jones notes, he never loses a ball, and he is a hard worker. Yet . . . Read More
At the beginning of the story, fourteen-year-old Dexter Green is a caddy at Sherry Island Golf Club. He works there only for pocket money, since his father owns “the second best grocery-store in Black Bear.” In the winter, Dexter frequently skis over the snow-covered fairways, a landscape that fills him with melancholy. During his days there, he frequently daydreams about becoming a golf champion and defeating the wealthy members of the club. One morning he abruptly quits when Judy Jones, a beautiful, eleven-year-old girl comes to play golf and treats him as an inferior.
Several years later he decides against attending the state university his father would have paid for and instead goes to a prestigious school in the East, although he has trouble affording it. The narrator makes it clear that he was more concerned with obtaining wealth than just associating with the wealthy.
After he graduates from college, . . . Read More
Marshall’s short story “To Da-duh, in Memoriam,” revolving around a rivalry between a grandmother and a granddaughter, functions within a series of contrasts as each female tries to prove that her world is superior. “I tried giving the contests I had sensed between us a wider meaning,” Marshall notes in her introduction to the story when it was included in Reena, and Other Stories. “I wanted the basic theme of youth and old age to suggest rivalries, dichotomies of a cultural and political nature, having to do with the relationship of western civilization and the Third World.” Marshall infuses “To Da-dun, in Memoriam” with small, careful details as well as large thematic concepts that explore those opposing forces, all of which contribute to the complex link between the vigorous American child and the aging island woman. Indeed, as Adam Gussow points out in The Village Voice, the love shared by grandmother and granddaughter is . . . Read More
By the 1930s, Barbados had been under British colonial rule for over three hundred years. Always a poor country ruled by a white, propertied minority, Barbados suffered throughout the 1930s. The rapidly growing population, rising cost of living, and fixed wage scale was exacerbated by the worldwide Great Depression. Riots broke out throughout British holdings in the Caribbean in the late 1930s. Protests in Barbados in 1937 resulted in the deaths of fourteen people.
The British rulers created a commission to look into the cause of these riots, and Grantley Adams, a Barbadian educated in England, rose to prominence after testifying that they resulted from economic distress. He formed the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in 1938. In 1940, he was elected to the House of Assembly. Over the next few years, he led a reform movement that protected union leaders, increased direct taxation, and created a worker’s . . . Read More
Point of View
“To Da-duh, in Memoriam” is written from the first-person point of view. The majority of the story is viewed through the child narrator’s eyes. She recalls when she first met Da-duh, her first impression of the sugar cane fields, and the rivalry that exists between the two family members. Hers is the only voice the reader hears, and hers are the only eyes through which the reader sees Barbados and Da-duh. Thus the rivalry—and both participants’ reaction to it—is only explained as a nine-year-old child might have seen, or an adult looking back at the nine-year-old child that she was. At the end of the story, the narrator pulls back even further from the events that form the bulk of the story. Her narration of what happens after she and her family leave Barbados—the riots, the planes flying over the island, and her grandmother’s death—are told from the point of view of an adult looking back at . . . Read More
The story pits an aging Barbadian grandmother against her youthful American granddaughter. Upon their first meeting, the two sense a similarity in each other that far outweighs the differences presented by the seventy years between them. Most importantly, each has a stubborn strength of will and a confidence that her way of regarding the world is the right way.
The characters knowingly participate in this rivalry. Da-duh has the knowledge that comes with age and experience, but the narrator has the brash confidence of youth. Da-duh has her pride of place, showing off her land with its lush plants, trees, and cane fields. The narrator has the technological superiority of the modern world, which she uses to goad her grandmother into silent submission; Da-duh is not impressed by technology, but it is so foreign to her that she cannot even conceive of her granddaughter’s descriptions of life in New York. The story ends . . . Read More