Analysis: Writing Style
"Winter Dreams" switches back and forth between beautiful imagery and relatively straightforward dialogue and description. For every brisk exchange we get between Dexter and his business associates, we also get a passage like this one, as Dexter goes for a nighttime swim off Sherry Island:
The tune the piano was playing at that moment had been gay and new five years before when Dexter was a sophomore at college. They had played it at a prom once when he could not afford the luxury of proms, and he had stood outside the gymnasium and listened. The sound of the tune precipitated in him a sort of ecstasy and it was with that ecstasy he viewed what happened to him now. It was a mood of intense appreciation, a sense that, for once, he was magnificently attune to life and that everything about him was radiating a brightness and a glamour he might never know again. (2.28)
There sure is a lot of style packed into that short passage. First of all, we have this strong sense of time passing. As Dexter listens to the music, he thinks of a prom five years ago, when he had to stand outside the gymnasium to listen to the activity inside. (Sad night, eh?) In other words, Dexter looks back to a time when he was just on the edge, both physically and symbolically, of financial success. He was just outside his college's social sphere. Now Dexter is participating actively in the social lives of the local rich. He has even played golf with – oh yes – T.A. Hedrick. The music that he hears reminds Dexter of where he was five years ago and of far he has come today. We can see how the style very nicely contributes to the wistful, nostalgic "Tone."
This passage also reminds us that Dexter associates wealth and social success with artistic appreciation and with beauty. Basically, whenever he's around rich people, he thinks life is beautiful. Superficial much? As Dexter listens to the music and sits in the darkness, he feels "magnificently attune to life." Everything on Sherry Island seems to be "radiating a brightness and a glamour he might never know again." The rich language of this passage, which emphasizes "ecstasy" and "brightness" and "glamour," easily shows us the beauty that Dexter associates with the rich life. These wordy, descriptive passages give us some taste of the artistry that Dexter wants out of his fantasies of wealth. He really has high hopes for what living the high life will feel like.
Moments like this contrast strongly with the ordinary conversations that Dexter has with his golfing partners or with Devlin. All of Dexter's romantic idealism comes from his own imagination, and all of the actual scenes of rich people interacting are strikingly dull. They lack the lushness of these descriptive moments in "Winter Dreams." Fitzgerald uses these contrasting rich and straightforward writing styles to emphasize the difference between Dexter's dreams of high society and the humdrum reality of the business world that he wants to enter. It's not all it's cracked up to be.