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 tells readers,”of course the quality and the seasonability of [Dexter’s] winter dreams varied.” The inclusion of “of course” adds an almost conspiratorial note, as if the narrator is communicating a hidden detail of Dexter’s character, one of which Dexter is not aware.
Later, in Part IV, he speaks more directly to the reader just before he tells them about what happens after Dexter gets engaged to Irene Scheerer. Here he warns readers to remember Dexter’s illusion of Judy’s desirability, “for only in the light of it can what he did for her be understood.” Fitzgerald’s chatty and perceptive narrator becomes an appropriate vehicle for an analysis of a character who has trouble separating illusion from reality.
Fitzgerald uses setting as a symbol of Dexter’s changing state of mind during the course of his relationship with Judy. Initially, his restlessness in his position as caddy to the wealthy residents of his home town fills him with sadness, which Fitzgerald expresses through the landscape: as Dexter skis over the snow-covered fairways, he notes that “at these times the country gave him a feeling of profound melancholy” as he is “haunted by ragged sparrows” and “desolate sand-boxes knee-deep in crusted ice.” It is during these times that Dexter has his “winter dreams” of success, as represented by the “gorgeous” fall, which “filled him with hope.” After he returns from college and sees Judy again at the golf course, he takes a swim in the lake, which, due to his vision of his limitless future, becomes “a clear pool, pale and quiet,” turning “silver molasses under the harvest moon.”
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.