Ben's Reviews > The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Mar 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: american-lit, short-stories

In Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald said that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was inspired by Mark Twain who said that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst at the end. However, if life is cyclical, as is asserted by so many modern jokes and cliches, then how can this be? For Benjamin, the extremities of age were terribly incongruous to social life in Baltimore and family life at home. His own son, Roscoe, treated him like the child he appeared to be just as his father had when Benjamin was born. As a matter of fact, I think Fitzgerald's most effective tool in making the story believable was his depiction of social reactions to the impossible circumstances of his aging pattern.

Of course, this indicates the cycle of aging but, near the end, there was one small difference that both eased my sympathy for Benjamin and increased it tenfold. When Benjamin aged to infancy, he couldn't remember any of the embarrassments or humiliations of having a fifty-year-old body at twenty years old, or the rotting relationships with his wife and child. But this also meant that he couldn't remember the wonderful parts when his body and Time seemed to cross paths in the gleam of middle age. And despite the bitter relations between him and his family members, I doubt he'd want to forget them all together. It wasn't just his body that aged backward, but his mind did also. A fully developed seventy-year-old brain at birth means an incomprehensible ignorance at seventy.

If the best part of life is cherishing memories of a life well lived, Mark Twain was entirely wrong.
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