Gatsby vs. Winter Dreams

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Social Meaning in Fitzgerald Literature
Often times fictional writing can be interpreted as commentary on the condition of humans and society. The work of F. Scott Fitzgerald is no exception to this principle. His most renowned novel, The Great Gatsby, is known for it’s demonstration of a society dictated by money, idealism, and love. Fewer know, however, about Fitzgerald’s earlier work named Winter Dreams. This short story about the life of an ambitious man named Dexter Green shares strong thematic topics with the tragic story of Jay Gatsby. Although the fatal flaws of Dexter Green and Jay Gatsby differ, the derived themes of perception versus reality and the corruption of the American Dream make it evident that F. Scott Fitgerald in fact intended Winter Dreams to be the prototype of The Great Gatsby.

Dexter Green and Jay Gatsby’s contrasting defects may be the aspect that makes Winter Dreams and The Great Gatsby seem different at first glance. The fatal flaw that brings Dexter Green to his ultimate despair is his inability to define who he is. As Fitzgerald points out, “Often [Dexter] reached out for the best without knowing why he wanted it” (WD 3). It is this lifestyle that results in Dexter’s rapid economic success, but also leads to the confusion that surrounds his life. Often in the story, Dexter cannot decide whether to embrace the humility of his past or the prosperity of his present. For example, when Dexter goes to the Sherry Island Golf Club with his new, wealthy friends, Fitzgerald writes, “One minute he had the sense of being a trespasser--in the next he was impressed by the tremendous superiority he felt toward Mr. T. A. Hendrick” (WD 4). It is this lost sense of self that disturbs Dexter in the end because he eventually realizes that he is trapped in his present self. When he sees that he can no longer be with Judy Jones, Dexter is upset because he knows that “he had gone away and he could never go back anymore” (WD 14). This fatal flaw...
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