Fitzgerald’s tale moves about in time, spanning just less than two decades in the lives of Dexter Green and Judy Jones, a structural and narrative choice that lends complexity and richness to his portrayal of the gradual wearing away of Dexter’s illusions. By juxtaposing various disembodied episodes in Dexter’s personal and professional lives, Fitzgerald suggests the intricate role the events play in shaping Dexter’s response to Judy and setting up the high cost of his winter dreams. The past is always alive for Dexter. For example, the sting of young Judy’s condescension on the golf course is a looming presence that Fitzgerald conjures to make Dexter’s disillusionment at the end of the story more profound. In an aside to the reader, Fitzgerald writes, “This story is not his biography, remember . . . .” Rather, the tale serves as an emotional history of hopes that are built up and then razed.
Temporal shifts and the passage of the seasons serve as a backdrop to the romantic possession from which Dexter tries to escape over the years. The story begins when Dexter is fourteen and eventually offers a rapid summary of his rise in life—from his college years at a prestigious Eastern university to his owning and eventually selling the largest string of laundries in the upper Midwest. Although the story actually concludes when Dexter is thirty-two, the action immediately flashes back to when Dexter is twenty-three and joining the elite for a round of golf. In just a few paragraphs, Fitzgerald presents an ironic juxtaposition. Dexter goes from a being a caddy to having young caddies carry his clubs for him at the same elite country club where he had once worked. Even then, at this telling moment in his young adult life, Dexter is attempting to “lessen the gap that lay between the present and the past.” Fitzgerald’s fluid sense of time in the story serves to draw more attention to Dexter’s lost youth and the gap that for Dexter will only widen and never close.
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