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, he borrows a sum of money, and that and his confidence buy him a partnership in a laundry. He works hard at the business, catering to wealthy customers as he learns how to properly clean fine clothes. As a result, by the time he is twenty-seven, he is a successful businessman, who owns an entire chain of laundries.
One day, when he is twenty-three, one of the men he had caddied for invites him to play at the Sherry Island Golf Club. As he is playing, Judy Jones accidentally hits one of his foursome in the stomach with her ball. Later that afternoon, he goes swimming and runs into Judy, who asks him to go boating with her. When she invites him to dinner the next night, “his heart turned over like the fly-wheel of the boat, and, for the second time, her casual whim gave a new direction to his life.” After spending a romantic evening with her, Dexter decides “that he had wanted Judy Jones ever since he was a proud, desirous little boy.”
During the next few weeks, they see each other regularly, but Judy frequently flirts and goes off with other men, which, he discovers, is typical behavior for her. A year and a half later, Dexter grows tired of Judy’s inability to commit herself to him, and finally convinces himself that she will not marry him. He then becomes engaged to”sweet and honorable” Irene Scheerer. The following spring, just before his engagement to Irene is to be announced, he plans one night to take her to the University Club, but since she is ill, he goes by himself. There he sees Judy, and is “filled with a sudden excitement.” While he tries to be casual and composed, she tells him how much she has missed him and loves him and so insists that he should marry her. She soon persuades him to break off his engagement with Irene and restart his relationship with her.
Judy’s attentions toward him last for only one month. Yet, Dexter does not “bear any malice toward her.” Soon after they part, he moves East, intending to settle in New York. However, when World War II breaks out, he returns home and enlists, “welcoming the liberation from webs of tangled emotion.”
The story picks up in New York seven years later, where Dexter has relocated after the war. At thirty-two, he is more successful than he had been before the war. One day, a man named Devlin comes to see him about business and tells him that his best friend is married to Judy. Devlin admits that her husband “treats her like the devil” while she stays home and takes care of their children. He also reveals that “she was a pretty girl when she first came to Detroit,” but that”lots of women fade just like that.”
Dexter becomes extremely upset at the thought of Judy losing her beauty and allure, admitting that his “dream was gone.” He cries, not for her but for himself, knowing that his youthful illusions of perfection have vanished. Despondent, he concludes that “now that thing is gone…, I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back no more.”
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.