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F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "Winter Dreams" almost epitomizes the loss of faith in the tenets of the American Dream and the disillusiuonment in American society during post-World War One America. He uses paradoxical descriptions throughout the story, reflecting the paradox of the reality of the time: that is, Americans should have been - and were - more wealthy and prosperous than in previous times; however; they were not happy. The story's title, which is mentioned in various places throughout the story, even reflects this, for although it connotes happiness, winter gives the main character Dexter " a feeling of profound melancholy" at the beginning of the story. This is in stark contrast to how he looks upon it later and at the end of the story, where it generates a happier feeling for him. This, of course, could be anyone who, as they age, reflects upon their past with more positive emotions than when they were younger and experiencing it at the time.
Nowhere, though, is the paradoxical quality of the story more evident than in Dexter's perceptions of and turns of phrase used to describe Judy Jones, his on again-off again love interest. For example, "--balanced only partially by the sad luxury of her eyes.", juxtaposes sadness with luxury, two qualities not usually associated with one another; indeed, luxury conjures up images of comfort, contentment and happiness, not sadness. Furthermore, "The helpless ecstasy of losing himself in her was opiate rather than tonic.", with opiate connoting a state of stupor more so than a state of ecstasy; a tonic would induce energy and ecstasy, not an opiate. Finally, "It was sturdy to accentuate her slightness--as if to show what a breeze could be generated by a butterfly's wing." exemplifies the paradox and contradiction that is Judy Jones, e.g., sturdiness versus slightness and breeziness versus the wispiness associated with the flapping of a butterfly's wings; in other words, qualities most often associated with weakness may, for her, actually turn out to be her strengths.
Indeed, Judy actually comes to this realization herself as she declares " 'I'm more beautiful than anybody else...why can't I be happy?' ". Perhaps ironic in a sense, her own self-knowledge of who and what she is does lend even more poignancy to the story in particular and its statement about the society of the time in general. It was a time of paradox and contradiction, as is arguably any time. The world encompasses such and much, much more. Judy Jones is the beautiful and wealthy daughter of the affluent Mr. Mortimer Jones, yet she is not happy. In short, though it may be cliched and trite, the old axiom still holds true here that money cannot buy happiness.
Ironic, too, is how Fitzgerald's use of paradoxical word pairings and phrasings in Dexter's descriptions of Judy Jones actually adds a deeper layer to the story, a layer that, upon closer inspection, illuminates a deeper truth. That truth is, as alluded to previously, that reality itself is full of paradoxes and contradictions, both in nature and in people especially. Perhaps the realization of the presence of those paradoxes and contradictions causes, or, at the very least, contributes to the loss of faith in the tenets of the American Dream and the disillusionment in American society experienced by the people inhabiting Fitzgerald's story as well as his society and, by extension, the people of today's society.