So Ive begun reading again and on reading the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, one cannot help but admire F Scott Fitzgerald, who is undoubtedly one of the best American writers we have had. Im amazed though how a film could have been based on this short story because the story lasts only 35 pages! But it is of course a master piece. Benjamin Button is born with the appearance of a 75 year old. His parents are extremely embarrassed, especially since they belong to high society in Maryland and this scandal can adversely affect the social and economic life of the Button family. One cannot help but notice certain impolite undertones for instance lets analyze this passage ‘He would have to introduce this, this septuagenarian. “This is my son, born early this morning”…they would plod on, past the bustling stores, the slave market-for a dark instant Mr. Button wished passionately that his son was black-past the houses of the residential district…’ the story has many hilarious instances as well. The times when 70 yrs old Benjamin is forced to play with a rattle and forced to attend kinder garden much to the horror of the nurse and classmates, all because Mr. Button refuses to acknowledge that his son has an abnormality and insists on giving his son the most normal childhood attainable.
Fitzgerald then continues to give us a beautiful description of Button’s first encounter with love and beautiful it is! I had to copy down this passage because the description is priceless. “It was a gorgeous evening. A full moon drenched the road to the lusterless color of platinum, and late-blooming harvest flowers breathed into the motionless air aromas that were like low, half heard laughter. The open country, carpeted for rods around with bright wheat, was translucent as in the day. It was almost impossible not to be affected by the sheer beauty of the sky-almost…..lights of the Sherlins’ country house drifted into view and presently there was a sighing sound that crept persistently toward them-it might have been the fine plaint of violins or the rustle of the silver wheat under the moon. They pulled up behind a handsome brougham whose passengers were disembarking at the door. A lady got out, then an elderly gentleman, then another young lady, beautiful as sin. Benjamin started, an almost chemical change seemed to dissolve and recompose the very elements of his body. A rigor passed over him, blood rose into his cheeks, his forehead, and there was a steady thumping in his ears. It was first love….the girl was slender and frail, with hair that was ashen under the moon and honey colored under the sputtering gas-lamps of the porch. Over her shoulders was thrown a Spanish mantilla of the softest yellow, butterflies in black; her feet were glittering buttons at the hem of her bustled dress..’
That what I love about the author, his way of romancing the reader though descriptions like these. So when Benjamin falls in love for the first time, he is 21 years old but his physical appearance is that of a 50 year old man and he’s mistaken to be his father’s brother. Hildergarde Moncrief is the beauty who catches his eye and sure enough she agrees to dance with the charming elderly man whose being so kind to her. “I like men of your age” Hildergarde told him. “Young men are so idiotic…You’re just the romantic age,’ she continued- ‘fifty. Twenty-five is too worldly wise, thirty is apt to be pale from overwork, forty is the age of long stories, sixty is too near seventy; but fifty is the mellow age. I love fifty.’ ‘Ive always said’ went on Hildergarde, ‘that I’d rather marry a man of fifty and be taken care of than marry a man of thirty and take care of him.’ In my opinion this makes so much sense and of late this is slowly becoming my motto. Older men have begun to appeal to me and true enough they seem to have much more sense and not to forget much more experience *winks*
So Hildergarde falls in love with Benjamin who adores her and soon they get married much to the shock and disgust of her family and Maryland society. But soon the war breaks out and people’s interests change from trivialities to more serious needs. Benjamin takes over his father’s business and becomes rich, contrary to what Hildergarde’s father had predicted. Slowly the society and family begins to accept the nouveau riche and life is rosy for the longest while in the Button household. As the years roll by Benjamin begins to get younger and handsomer and his wife ages (not gracefully we read) and he begins to lose interest in her! Again we come across a passionate description about age taking its toll on appearance and relationships. This is where I began to get angry at Benjamin Button
“At the time Hildergarde was a woman of 35, with a son Roscoe, 14 years old. In the early days, Benjamin had worshipped her. But as the years passed, her honey colored hair became an unexciting brown, the blue enamel of her eye assumed the aspect of cheap crockery- moreover, and most of all, she had become too settled in her way, too placid, too content, too anemic, in her excitements and too sober in her taste. As a bride it had been she who had ‘dragged’ Benjamin to dances and dinners- now conditions were reversed. She went out socially with him but without enthusiasm, devoured already by that eternal inertia which comes to live with each of us one day and stay with us to the end…”
Benjamin joins the army because he can’t bear the thought of living any longer with his wife. In the army he gains a reputable position thanks to his well known business. When he returns back home, he finds that his wife has moved to Italy and Benjamin is happy to immerse himself in the company of starlets, dancers and women throng to his haunts just to be in his company. But soon Benjamin realises that he’s only getting younger, he had expected that once he reaches a certain point, his body would stop “not aging”. Soon Button has to turn over his company to his son Roscoe because his youthful features doesnt allow for people to take him seriously. Roscoe is embarassed to even be close to his father and agrees to let Benjamin talk to him only if he promises to enroll himself into children’s hour classes and adresses Roscoe as “uncle” in front of his friends. Benjamin is left with no choice and agrees, soon he realises that his beard has stopped growing and as he grows older his physique strangely turns more boyish. His son gets angry at his father and asks him to stop whatever he is doing because these physical changes are adversely affecting the way people view the respectable Button Household. Soon Benjamin is obliged to stick to the company of children and in a last effort to prove his real age, he runs away from home and decides to enroll in the army again. This only causes an uproar in the army and the soldiers have a good laugh at the “lad trying to play general-general”.
Roscoe comes and collects his father, who is very similar in height and weight to Roscoe’s youngest son (not quite a toddler). Roscoe buys his father a rattle and Benjamin’s life now revolves around nursery, his playmates are toddlers and his nurse is the center of his life. They go to the park every day and “the nurse points to a large grey shape and says ‘elephant’ and Benjamin repeats in a loud voice ‘elyfant elyfant”. Soon Benjamin’s life is limited indoors and much later only to his little white crib.“He did not remember. He did not remember clearly whether the milk was warm or cool at his last feeding or how the days passed- there was only his crib and Nana’s familiar presence. And then he remembered nothing. When he was hungry, he cried-that was all.Then it was all dark, and his white crib and the dim faces that moved above him, and the warm sweet aroma of the milk, faded out altogether from his mind.” So that’s the ending of the story which doesnt really expose the destiny of Benjamin Button. I assume the baby died or perhaps its a cycle wherein he begins aging once he’s gotten the youngest possible. It would be sad to believe the human with so much experience died an anti-death, so I personally believe Benjamin Button does have a chance of getting older. I havent seen the movie though, I would love to see how the movie ends, could someone seriously kill Benjamin Button?