In the elite world of the Sherry Island Golf Club, the boat emerges not only as a symbol of luxury but also as a powerful reminder of the emptiness a life of indulgence can lead to. The boat makes a memorable entrance, with Judy at the helm, as Dexter enjoys a solitary moment on the raft anchored in the middle of the lake next to the country club. Lost in a reverie, Dexter is filled with the bliss of arrival, having finally reached the success he had long anticipated. Entertaining only the most auspicious of prospects when he looks to the future, Dexter feels at that moment a satisfaction that he may never again experience as intensely. Abruptly interrupting Dexter’s musings, the whirr of the motor overpowers Dexter’s thoughts about the rosy life ahead. Judy speeds across the lake in the boat, foreshadowing the profound ways that Dexter’s ensuing passion for Judy will impact his future happiness.
For Judy, flying behind the boat on a surfboard, the boat is an escape from reality. Her admirers learn quickly that she is too fast to catch and lives solely for her own pleasure. Dexter obeys when she tells him to drive the boat for her, the first of an ensuing string of commands he will obey. As an object of affluence, it shows how truly divorced from reality Judy is. She tells Dexter that she is running from a man she had been dating who has begun to idealize her. The boat is her way of escaping the ways in which men try to make her fit their own dreams and reflect their idealized visions of the perfect woman. Judy hides in the boat again later, when she grows tired of the man from New York who is rumored to be her fiancé. The boat becomes Judy’s haven from the oppressive affections of men who are captivated by her, an expensive toy that whisks her away from commitment or the need to accept responsibility for her actions.
Golf balls, part of the pristine world of the country club, suggest the harm that an idle life can lead to as well as the stringent requirements one must meet to belong to the upper class. Dexter, with his self-made wealth, tries desperately to blend in with this affluent world. The imagery of the golf balls emerges twice, both times reflecting the upper-class ease that the game itself embodies. First, before the spring thaw in the north country, golfers use black and red balls, which stand out better in the patches of snow that linger on the course. This reference comes early in the story, when Dexter is a young caddy, excluded from Judy Jones and her set because he is a middle-class boy of limited means. When Dexter finally gets a toehold in her world, he sacrifices his individuality for the identical white balls he uses at the club where he once caddied.
During Dexter’s once anticipated but ultimately disappointing golf outing with T. A. Hedrick, golf balls, in the hands of Judy Jones, become an emblem of aggression. Judy’s ball hits Mr. Hedrick in the stomach, and her obliviousness, whether feigned or genuine, serves only to further characterize her as a self-centered brat. Although there is little threat of real physical violence in this genteel, upper-class world, the incident suggests that aggression lurks just beneath the surface. Although Judy embodies the light, almost hedonist spirit that would eventually characterize the age, Fitzgerald reminds us in this episode that beneath the fun and leisure, real harm can be done. Judy’s errant ball foreshadows the more potent emotional damage she imparts in trifling with Dexter’s and her other admirers’ affections.