Dexter and Judy embark on a romance. She reveals that she thinks that she loves him, but a week later, during a picnic supper, she disappears with another man in her roadster. Dexter is upset and unconvinced by Judy’s assurances that she did not kiss the other man, but he appreciates her courtesy in attempting to protect his feelings.
Judy’s non-committal behavior is a way of asserting her power. She is aware of herself as a coveted object and aware of Dexter’s love, but also seeks her own pleasure.
Before the summer ends, Dexter learns that there are still other men. Furthermore, he realizes that Judy’s habit is to maintain a favorite suitor for a short time and then neglect him in favor of a new man in town. When the old suitor threatens to stop seeing her altogether, she allows for a brief reconciliation, which encourages him to continue to seek her affection “for a year or so longer.”
Judy’s objectification of her lovers mirrors Dexter’s objectification of people. She is only interested in the “new man in town,” just as Dexter is only interested in the “glittering people.” However, because her identity is reliant on her desirability, she encourages men’s affections even after she loses interest.
During three days in August, Dexter and Judy spend long evenings on her veranda. Between “strange wan kisses,” he asks her to marry him. Her initial response is ambiguous. Then, she accepts his proposal. Soon thereafter, she distances herself from him and, in September, becomes involved with a man from New York whom she dumps by the end of the month in favor of a local suitor.
Judy’s affections are weakening (“wan kisses”), but she still feels the pressure to marry. When a new man comes to town, he offers her a distraction from Dexter, but she loses interest in him as well, suggesting that Judy is bored by many of the men in her social class.
When the summer ends, Dexter is 24-years-old and remains socially active, but, due to his “confessed devotion” to Judy, he takes no interest in local women. He begins thinking of moving to New York and taking Judy with him. She remains the most desirable woman he has ever known.
The following fall, when Dexter is twenty-five, he becomes engaged to Irene Scheerer, a nice, honorable young woman who is less attractive than Judy. Dexter feels no passion for her and he continues to ruminate on all of the ways in which Judy insulted his dignity by beckoning him, then growing bored with him. By fall, he convinces himself that he cannot have Judy.
Dexter’s engagement to Irene is marred by his sense that she is second-best, just like his father’s grocery store was second-best. He thinks that he can be content with her, but he struggles to overcome the sting of Judy’s rejection. Judy remains a “glittering object” out of his reach.
At the end of the week, Dexter goes to a dance where Judy is also present. He dances with her once, but does not engage her in conversation or compliment her appearance. Judy seems indifferent to his lack of sociability, which wounds him, though he is not jealous to see her with another man. Instead, he talks with Irene about books and music. Though he knows “very little about either,” he decides that, given his youth and new class status, he “should know more about such things.”
Dexter is disappointed to realize that Judy does not rely on his attention. Conversely, he is less interested in paying attention to Irene, but does find her useful in making him appear more cultivated. Dexter is not interested in arts and culture, but wants to appear as though he is to fit in better with members of the upper-class who appreciate such things.