THAT THING IS GONE
“Now that thing is gone, that thing is gone. I cannot cry. I cannot care. That thing will come back no more.”
-- Dexter Green, in Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams”
On first glance, the ending of Fitzgerald’s story might seem heartbreakingly sad, but with further thought, a significant amount of hope may shine through the poignant words. Yes, something that was very important to Dexter is gone and will never return, but a reader might say, “Good riddance.” After a young life spent trying to surround his ego with glitz and glamour, what he has discovered is that his ego itself is gone, vanished as surely as the beauty of Judy Jones, the woman he worshipped. Everything he thought was important, including his separate ego, has been “left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life.” What remains, perhaps, is the country of truth and reality – a vast and promising land, indeed. Dexter Green’s story is a common one. Like so many of us, he got lost in the illusion that the world is made of separate “selves”, or things, each trying to build up, beautify, and fortify itself. In this frantic and doomed enterprise, Dexter suffered greatly, until finally his suffering forced him, as it does so many of us, to see that the materialistic view of reality is muddled, destructive, and just plain wrong. He thought he was a distinct, unique, and very successful person, but, at the end of the story, he sees that that vision – that “thing” – is gone forever. At the age of 32, he is totally alone – no ego, nothing to glamorize, nothing to protect – but also, because of his suffering, he may feel somehow united with the wide-reaching and beautiful family of the human race. Perhaps he “cannot cry” and “cannot care” because he somehow realizes that his situation is strangely hopeful. Perhaps he understands, along with the reader, that he can now start to truly live.