Example of Psychological Criticism: Exploration of “Winter Dreams”

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In the field of literary criticism, psychoanalysis introduces a new dimension, another way of reading. Considering this, Freud’s work highlights the unconscious processes at work in certain literary creations, seeking to understand the implication of the unconscious in the elaboration of the literary object and the art object in general and interpret the unconscious issues of the author inscribed in his work. These works invent a new reading of the literary object, the object of art, opening new ways while also encountering limits and resistances that are those of Freud.

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Freudian Psychoanalysis and Literary Interpretation

In this context, Winter Dreams is a short literary story by Francis Scott Fitzgerald whose main plot is marked by family history, the personal journey, and the aspirations of its author. Winter dreams are an experience achieved. The social differences, the value of money, the search for beauty, and the bankruptcy of ideals are the central themes of this love story and ambition, dramatic and tender, sarcastic and delicate, that Fitzgerald built with precious prose that distills emotion, full of suggestive images, but also fresh, light, cynical and disenchanted. However, there are a few of Freud’s psychoanalytic aspects of the story that can be evaluated through the evaluation of dreams, i.e., the unconscious processes of the main character.

The story ‘Winter Dreams’ reflects the jazz era, portraying the social rise of a young boy named Dexter and his desire for the beautiful lady, Judy Jones, and lays the foundations for further theoretical assessment. Fitzgerald wrote this story in 1922 and got it published in the Metropolitan magazine. Born in Minnesota, Dexter Green, a middle-class boy, aspires to be part of the elite (Fitzgerald). While his father owns one of the most profitable grocery stores in the city, Dexter would like to come from a significant and rich family for generations. In winter, he skis on snow-covered golf fields, a landscape that fills him with melancholy. He dreams of meeting the clientele of these golf courses. To get closer to this elite, he becomes a caddy at a golf club in Minnesota, a seaside resort. But when ordered to become the Caddy of the owner’s daughter, Judy Jones, then eleven years old, he feels humiliated, considered a stooge, and prefers to quit his job. After college, Dexter starts a laundry business and, years later, owns a chain of establishments in this business and returns to the Golf Club as a guest. He meets Judy Jones again on the golf course.

Dexter’s Unconscious Desires and Repressions

She is now a girl of amazing beauty. In the evening, Dexter swims to a raft on the lake, and Judy, who drives a motorboat, crosses her path. She asks him to drive his boat so that she can go water skiing (Fitzgerald). After this meeting, Judy invites Dexter to dinner. Their relationship develops until the young man discovers that he is only one of the multiple sighs of the young woman. Eighteen months later, Dexter becomes engaged with Irene Scheerer, a girl as ‘sweet and honorable’ as banal, while Judy is on vacation in Florida. Upon her return, Judy arranges to seduce Dexter again, who asks her to marry him and breaks her engagement with Irene but is, in turn, abandoned by Judy a month later. To overcome his sorrow, the young man enlisted in the army and was sent to fight during the First World War. Seven years after the end of the conflict, Dexter became an influential businessman in New York. One day, a certain Devlin from Detroit pays him a business visit. During the meeting, he mentions the name of Judy Simms, aka Judy Jones, the wife of one of her friends, and explains how she became an exemplary housewife. Dexter also learns that Judy has lost her charm and that her husband, an alcoholic, acts towards her not without cruelty, deceiving her. This news shocks Dexter, who realizes the love and hopes he still has regarding Judy. However, he logically and quickly understands that his dream of having a life with Judy now belongs to the past (Fitzgerald).

From the psychoanalytic perspective, for Freud, psychic functioning can be represented by three instances: the Id, which represents the instinctual desires of a person, is the unconscious of the mind; the superego, on the other hand, corresponds to the moral values of an individual, to the limits he has imposed on himself in order to look good in the eyes of others; and the ego: it is the consciousness of the person. In this context, the dream, as observed in the story by Dexter, serves as a starting point for discovering the repressed psychic backgrounds. For this, Freud’s assumptions encompass the existence of the dream and its strange language and present three fundamental hypotheses, i.e., impulsive and repression, unconscious and displacement. In the impulsive hypothesis, Freud has presented that the very small male child is invaded by impulses of incest (Oedipus complex). These infantile impulses are universal; if sexually repressed very early, they accumulate in the form of unconscious desires, such as Dexter’s desire to be with Judy. These unconscious desires are then at the origin of dreams, which occur during a light sleep before waking. As mentioned, ‘It is not so simple as that, either…Dexter was unconsciously dictated to by his winter dreams (Fitzgerald, Pp. 2). Where the thoughts and images of previous days have provided Dexter with the desires that emerge during his dreams with an inconsistent appearance. Finally, the displacement explains the formation of the dream and its absurd appearance: it is a question of hiding from the dreamer his incompatible infantile desires.

Unveiling the Unconscious Journey

It is in this context that Freud mentions that the individual gradually moves away and comes to realize his unconscious background and sexual repressions. The elaboration of the idea can also be assessed in the writing when later Dexter meets Judy as a businessman, i.e., ‘Then he saw–she communicated her excitement to him, lavishly, deeply, with kisses that were not a promise but a fulfillment. They aroused in him not hunger demanding renewal but surfeit that would demand more surfeit . . . kisses that were like charity, creating want by holding back nothing at all (Fitzgerald, Pp. 5). And, this realization can be evaluated in the emotions in the story presenting that the communication has made him acknowledge his inner needs and desires (Ellman) that he once repressed as the little boy. Therefore, Dexter has dreamed of decrypting the messages of his unconscious part.

Moreover, it has been the libido of Dexter that has made him dream and continue his drive, although he knows that Judy has dozens of other men who circulate around her (Ellman, Fosshage). He knows that each of these individuals is favored in comparison to others, and if one tries to drop out, Judy used to grant him a ‘honeyed hour’ to encourage him to stay. But, he has opted to be with Judy to fulfill his desires and get pleasure. According to the psychoanalytic assessment, it has been the id of Dexter from which the impulses originate. As mentioned, when she assured him that she had not kissed the other man, he knew she was lying–yet he was glad that she had taken the trouble to lie to him (Fitzgerald, Pp. 5). Dexter has known no rules, neither time nor space nor forbidden since his behavior is only governed by the libido, i.e., the psychic energy often related to sexuality or aggression, with the ultimate aim of achieving immediate pleasure (Fitzgerald). For this reason, he has been unable to overcome his emotions: ‘For a week, lest he imagined her husky voice over the telephone or her eyes opposite him at lunch, he worked hard and late, and at night he went to his office and plotted out his years (Fitzgerald, Pp. 6). It is earlier through this imagination, Dexter has satisfied his unconscious desires. For Freud, in fact, the conscious segment represents only a part of a vast psychic continent whose essential part remains unconscious; for this reason, Dexter has been unable to stop repressing the fantasies and the desires that animate him without his knowledge.


Conclusively, the psychoanalytical basis presents that Dexter has satisfied his desires in the story ‘The Winter Dreams’ through unconscious imagination and fantasies. And these unconscious desires are then at the origin of dreams. Where the thoughts and images of previous days as Caddy have provided Dexter with the desires that emerge during his dreams with an inconsistent appearance. Also, the communication has made him acknowledge his inner needs and desires that he once repressed as a little boy. According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, it is the libido of Dexter that has made him dream and continue his drive of desires in an unconscious manner, although he knows that Judy has dozens of other men who circulate around her. However, Dexter gradually moves away and comes to realize his unconscious background and sexual repressions and logically understands that his dream of having a life with Judy now belongs to the past.


  1. Freud, S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. by A. A. Brill. Macmillan.

  2. Fitzgerald, F. S. (1922). Winter Dreams. Metropolitan Magazine, 45(2), 131-142.

  3. Ellman, R. (2004). The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture. Routledge.

  4. Fosshage, J. L. (1991). A Critique of Psychoanalytic Concepts and Theories. Analytic Press.

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Example of Psychological Criticism: Exploration of “Winter Dreams”. (2023, Aug 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/example-of-psychological-criticism-exploration-of-winter-dreams/