Judy Jones, the daughter of the wealthy Mortimer Jones, is introduced as an eleven-year-old with a “passionate quality” and a perceptible “spark” that Dexter immediately finds bewitching. However, her imperiousness on the golf course leads Dexter to quit his caddying job. His “winter dreams” remind him that he should not be taking orders from someone so young. After making his fortune in the laundry business, Dexter sees Judy again; she is now “arrestingly beautiful,” but not known for much else. Interestingly, the reader knows nothing of Dexter’s appearance, but only about his class background and his ambition. On the other hand, Judy is defined solely by her looks and how she uses them to her advantage. Fitzgerald’s characterizations of Judy and Dexter illustrate the limitations of gender. While Dexter is able to channel his vitality into his business ventures, Judy’s only hope is to use her allure to find a suitable husband.
T.A. Hedrick, however, is contemptuous of Judy’s tendency to turn her “big cow-eyes on every calf in town,” a metaphor that overlooks the deliberateness of her actions. She turns her gaze on men to make them consider her for marriage—though she isn’t quite sincere about her interest in them, having many suitors (and therefore many options for her future) makes tactical sense. It’s clear, then, that Judy is planning for her future as deliberately (and some might say as cynically) as Dexter; however, Judy is criticized for this while Dexter is praised.
Dexter hears about Judy’s lover from New York—“the son of the president of a great trust company”—whom she jilts in favor of “a local beau” who does not bore her. Just as Judy is flighty and indifferent to her suitors, Dexter acknowledges that Irene Scheerer will not bring him happiness, but a “bushel of content.” She offers domestic comfort—a prospect that he eschews in favor of another month of Judy’s fickle passion. Like Judy’s indifference for her “mournful” New York lover, Dexter, after telling Irene about his infidelity, recalls nothing “sufficiently pictorial about Irene’s grief to stamp itself on his mind.” Both consume people like objects, picking them up then discarding them at their whim. Fitzgerald shows that both Dexter and Judy share a “hard-minded” attitude borne from their respective ambitions for wealth and influence.
When Judy marries Lud Simms, a prominent man from Detroit, she becomes a housewife who is treated carelessly by a man whom she loves. There is a cruel irony in this fate: Judy has secured the wealthy man whom she wanted, but is now treated with the indifference she had once inflicted on her beaus. When Devlin, a business associate, tells Dexter about Judy’s marriage, Dexter seems both surprised and disappointed by the report that Judy “[s]tays at home with her kids” while her husband runs around. He is surprised because he had associated that careless behavior with Judy. Devlin insists that, despite Simms’s running around, “they’re not going to get divorced or anything” and that “she forgives him” when he’s “particularly outrageous.” This forgiveness mirrors Dexter’s own habit of returning to Judy every time she treated him poorly. Her vulnerability reminds him of his own—not just that which he felt in the past, but also the vulnerability he still feels, despite all of his material acquisitions. The difference is that Judy has no other recourse than to be a wife and mother. While Dexter had the option to discard Irene, and then put his failed engagement with Judy out of his mind to focus on his business pursuits, Judy’s business was to marry a man who could bring her wealth and prestige.
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Gender and Ambition Quotes in Winter Dreams
“I think I’ll quit.” The enormity of his decision frightened him. He was a favorite caddy, and the thirty dollars a month he earned through the summer were not to be made elsewhere around the lake. But he had received a strong emotional shock, and his perturbation required a violent and immediate outlet. It is not so simple as that, either. As so frequently would be the case in the future, Dexter was unconsciously dictated to by his winter dreams.
He could have gone out socially as much as he liked.... His confessed devotion to Judy Jones had rather solidified his position…. Already he was playing with the idea of going East to New York. He wanted to take Judy Jones with him. No disillusion as to the world in which she had grown up could cure his illusion as to her desirability.
Summer, fall, winter, spring, another summer, another fall—so much he had given of his active life to the incorrigible lips of Judy Jones. She had treated him with interest, with encouragement, with malice, with indifference, with contempt…. She had insulted him, and she had ridden over him, and she had played his interest in her against his interest in his work—for fun. She had done everything to him except criticise him—this she had not done—it seemed to him only because it might have sullied the utter indifference she manifested and sincerely felt toward him.
He 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…fire and loveliness were gone, the magic of nights and the wonder of the varying hours and seasons…slender lips, down-turning, dropping to his lips and bearing him up into the heaven of eyes…. The thing was deep in him.