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 his desire to become a part of the glittering world of wealth he has only glimpsed compels him to abruptly quit his job when Judy Jones makes him feel that he is her inferior. The narrator explains, ‘ ‘as so frequently would be the case in the future, Dexter was unconsciously dictated to by his winter dreams.”
Dexter’s ambition prompts him to attend a prestigious university in the East, and then upon graduation, to work hard to master the cleaning trade and so become a successful businessman. He works diligently to improve his manners and dress so that he can become a part of the world he so admires. Besides adopting the mannerisms of those who attend a top university, he finds the best tailors to dress him.
Many who meet him, impressed with his success, like to say: “Now there’s a boy.” The narrator makes it clear, however, that Dexter is not a snob; he does not want “association with glittering things and glittering people, he wanted the glittering things themselves.” Yet Dexter does not appear to covet glittering things for their monetary value. He instead seems to need them to fulfill his vision of a perfect life, which includes gaining the love of Judy Jones.
He does not always, however, wear his success easily. When he returns to his hometown and is invited out by the men for whom he used to caddy, he tries to close the gap between the present and the past. He notes that he fluctuates from feeling as if he is an impostor to a sense that he is clearly superior to the men he used to work for.
He shows his emotional strength when he accepts Judy’s treatment of him, which causes him a great deal of pain, and does not feel any malice toward her. Yet when he learns that her beauty and vitality have faded, he breaks. Judy has been at the center of his vision of a golden world of wealth and opportunity. When she fades, so does his dream. As a result, he feels an overwhelming emptiness.
J. A. Hedrick
Dexter caddies for Hedrick, one of the wealthy patrons of the Sherry Island Golf Club. Judy Jones hits him accidentally in the stomach one day with her golf ball. Hedrick has definite ideas about a woman’s place, as he reveals in his criticism of Judy’s actions. He claims that’ ‘all she needs is to be turned up and spanked for six months and then to be married off to an old-fashioned cavalry captain.”
Judy is Dexter’s ideal woman, beautiful, confident, and wealthy. When she is young, she is ‘ ‘inexpressibly lovely” and full of vitality, with a “continual impression of flux, of intense life.” She embodies everything that Dexter wants in life. However, she is shallow and coldhearted as she toys with the emotions of Dexter and other men who become enamored with her.
When Dexter sees her at the beginning of the story, she is imperious, barking orders at him and arguing with her nurse, whom she soon begins to attack with her golf club. Later, when she accidentally hits Mr. Hedrick in the stomach with her ball, she does not show much concern, telling her partner that she has been delayed because she has hit “something.” Dexter, however, appreciates her manner and becomes envious of it.
She becomes an extremely fickle young woman, favoring one man over another only for a brief time. When her suitors appear to lose interest, she reels them back to her. Yet, the narrator insists, her actions are considerably innocent; she treats men in such a manner not because she holds any malice toward them, but because she truly does not realize the consequences of her actions.
Her tenacity emerges as she goes after whatever she wanted “with the full pressure of her charm” and her beauty. As she turns her back on Dexter and the other men who pursue her, she is confident that she will be able to win them back if she so desires. She plays the mating game by her own rules, “entertained only by the gratification of her desires and by the direct exercise of her own charm.” Yet, at her core is a hollowness, which she notes when she declares, “I’m more beautiful than anybody else…. Why can’t I be happy?”
Dexter becomes engaged to Irene after he decides that he will never be able to convince Judy to marry him. Irene is a “sweet and honorable,” popular young woman, who gives him a sense of “solidity.” She does not, however, have Judy’s vitality and beauty. Dexter “knew that Irene would be no more than a curtain spread behind him, a hand moving among gleaming tea-cups, a voice calling to children.” When Judy renews her interest in him, Dexter breaks his engagement with Irene.
Carol Ullmann (Editor) Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 15, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Published by Gale, 2002.