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Short Stories > The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Short Story Group Read)

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message 1: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Feel free to make your comments/ask questions after reading the story. I'll be back later to talk about it.


message 2: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Here's a link to the story.

http://www.readbookonline.net/read/69...


message 3: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments Thanks Tressa.


message 4: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments The movie is VERY different from the story. I liked the movie and bawled at the end of that, too, but it can't touch the genius of the story. Benjamin is portrayed as not as likable but more human, I think.


message 5: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments I never saw the movie.....
I cannot wait to read this story...I think I will work on that tomorrow!


message 6: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments The movie is pretty good. It's not perfect but it's very watchable.

Can't wait to discuss the story with you. Enjoy it. I'll have to read it yet again to remember the things I want to point out.


message 7: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments Ok I just finished the story and I must say I liked it! Such a note of sadness to it.


message 8: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments OK. This story really punched me in the gut at the end when Benjamin reversed back to kindergarten years. Knowing that his adult mind—brilliant enough to command troops and fall in love and be successful in business ventures—could get excited about the colorful strips of paper in the classroom made me cry. My son was K age when I read the short story and I could easily picture how small and frightened of the unknown that Benjamin would be at this age.

And then the next year when his grandson (!) advanced and he was left behind, and now was a little puzzled at what to do with the colorful strips of paper, that was even sadder.

But Fitzgerald's brilliant baby/nanny/crib scene with all the smells and shadows and murmurs that a baby experiences but doesn't understand made for such a melancholy ending. I really lost it when he describes the world fading to black for baby Benjamin.


message 9: by Eileen (new)

Eileen I started reading it today. Thanks for the link, Tressa.


message 10: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments It did start out like an old-fashioned comedy (well, to readers these days). It seemed like the aged Benjamin was easier to deal with than the child Benjamin.

I'm sorry about your father, Michael. Alzheimer's scares me more than any other medical condition. My grandmother had it and it is painful to watch them forget so much. I'm afraid I'll have it because even now my memory is not so good.

Benjamin sneaking back into the army when he de-aged to his early teens was another sad scene. I hated the way Benjamin's father treated him when he was grew younger, and then his son treated him even worse. I know it was hard for them to deal with, but come on. His family seemed pretty jerky if you ask me. But, then again, Benjamin had his own jerky moments. Remember when he lost interest in his wife because she got wrinkled and gray? Then he just ran around on her.

In Fitzgerald's case, the reverse chronology heightened the sense of loss much more than a standard story about senility might have.

Good point, Michael. The fact that Benjamin "grew young" instead of old made me more sympathetic to the changes that we will all experience at the end of our lives. When people grow old and feeble, we still see them as adults and I don't think they get the care and understanding they deserve, even though they are as confused as young children at times. However, watching a person age in reverse makes us realize just how scared and delicate the elderly AND very young are.


message 11: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments There definitely is a similarity to being elderly and being very young (baby like).....

I was infuriated by his family's attitude....acting like Benjamin could DO something about his genetic problem or that he was somehow causing it. The Army seen was a bit heart breaking....he used to be such a respected Officer and then they just make fun of him and treat him badly....

That is the message I get from it as well....bullying. It seems no matter what at the elderly stage and the very young stage he was bullied.

The end was definitely wrenching....just going backward and not even remembering who or what he was.


message 12: by Tressa (last edited Feb 27, 2012 11:55AM) (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Michael wrote: "In discussing this, I just realized what made the story so haunting for me -- the sense of terrible isolation. Benjamin is fundamentally alone. From cradle to cradle-grave, he slips through time without making any lasting connections. Those he makes -- however strong they seem -- slip away. All of this is thrown into our faces by the de-aging. For me, I think, having been a psycho hermit, this isolation resonates strongly...."

You're a psycho? Now I'm rethinking sending you that friend invite!

Your comments remind me of Thomas Wolfe's favorite theme. This isolation theme has always haunted me. Ever read Look Homeward, Angel by Wolfe? That's what it's about. No matter what wonderful family we were born into or what great friends we made during our short time on earth, we still have to journey to here and out all by ourselves. They can hold your hand once you're out of the womb and hold your hand as your the world turns dark, but before that time and afterward it's just you.

Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.
Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? ~ Look Homeward, Angel


I'm throwing in a few additional quotes from this cheery guy.

“Man is born to live, to suffer, and to die, and what befalls him is a tragic lot. There is no denying this in the final end. But we must deny it all along the way.”
― Thomas Wolfe

“My dear, dear girl [. . .] we can't turn back the days that have gone. We can't turn life back to the hours when our lungs were sound, our blood hot, our bodies young. We are a flash of fire--a brain, a heart, a spirit. And we are three-cents-worth of lime and iron--which we cannot get back.”
― Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

“This is man, who, if he can remember ten golden moments of joy and happiness out of all his years, ten moments unmarked by care, unseamed by aches or itches, has power to lift himself with his expiring breath and say: "I have lived upon this earth and known glory!”
― Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again


message 13: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Michael wrote: "There's an entire tragedy behind the wife's tale. She's relegated to the sidelines and almost made a caricature -- though I think a lot of that must be laid up to how Benjamin interprets her. She was the person he could have bonded with and stayed bonded with -- it's a tragedy to them both that he let her slip away. Contrast this with the way that Conner viewed Heather in the Highlander movie (one of my guilty pleasures)...."

Have you seen the movie? In the movie he has a relationship with a woman like the one you mention he could have had in the short story with his wife. When he's an old man he sees a young girl and falls for her. They lose touch but then get together when they're reach similar ages, but then they pass each other going the other way and lose touch again. The ending of the movie comes full circle and she is there in his life as he reverts to surly teen, adolescent, toddler, then dies in her arms as a baby. I'll admit that I couldn't NOT watch this scene the first time I saw it on DVD and left the room. It wasn't until days later when I was able to view a clip of it without bawling my eyes out.

The scene when she comes back to help him in his final years just gets me every time. (FF to about the 4:00 mark to see her with him as a toddler and then baby.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puSFqJ...


message 14: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Hey, now, about Look Homeward, Angel. That book is filled with bits and pieces of the most beautiful, poetic passages ever, but as a whole book it's kind of hard to read. Just skim it and highlight your favorite passages. ;-D

Yes, I believe the movie softens the story because it's filled with people who love and support Benjamin, especially the woman he falls in love with who stays devoted to him her entire life (and his *sob!*)

I've TRULY BAWLED at the endings of three movies:

1. The Color Purple
2. Gladiator
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

GD you movie makers!

Enjoy Blackwater. :-)


message 15: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments I may slightly disagree with coming in alone and going out alone.....I am not so sure about the coming into the world alone, but I tend to lean toward someone being there on the other side when you die (shed the earthly body).

I think it was a combo of losing one another....Benjamin let his wife slip away, but she also let it go as well. I mean I understand he was losing interest, but she did nothing to prevent it either. I really felt his son was harsh and could have been more respectful.

I have not seen any of those movies Tressa. I did see a movie recently that made me cry and that was Big Miracle (the whale movie).


message 16: by Tressa (last edited Feb 28, 2012 07:02AM) (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I mean the actual journey of coming into the world and leaving. A baby is in the womb alone and must travel the birth canal by himself. Even if you believe in an afterlife, there is that great unknown right after death that you have to venture into on your own, even if it's just a walk down that tunnel toward the light at the end (like in those '70s afterlife movies, lol).

I think the marriage between Benjamin and the woman is just one of those things in life where the courtship and early years were pleasant enough, but with aging and different interests and the ___ year itch it just fizzled out.


message 17: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments I just read this story and really loved it. I was surprised by how different it was from the movie. Love story was definitely more prominent in the movie. Very sad story, I gotta go cheer up now.


message 18: by Tressa (last edited Feb 28, 2012 09:41AM) (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments So glad you read it and joined us, Bandit. It's about as much like the movie as Forest Gump the book was to its movie. In other words, the premise and the main character!

You'll find it's a story that stays with you, especially the ending. Michael is right, it starts out as humorous and turns into something melancholy.


message 19: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Lyons (amandamlyons) I've read that Fitzgerald was bit of a bastard to his wife (blocking her writing because he felt it would interfere with his own and other such things) so I kind of wonder if he was writing away some sort of argument between them as much as debating the way things would turn out if life went the other way.

I like the story but yep Benjamin is definitely more of a bastard in the story than the movie (echoes of Forrest Gump here in which case I also saw the movie before reading the source material) and his marriage is so sad. I wonder how much it reflects on Fitzgerald's views on both women and relationships to have Button be this way. There again it does drive home the point that he has a hard time forming connections to people and maintaining them for any real length of time which might have been more the point of the story than an echo of the writer's views.

I agree the ending is very sad, even the darkest of people doesn't deserve to have who they are fade away from them long before they pass away. In some ways it calls to mind the way people with Alzheimer's might feel as it progressively takes away their memories.


message 20: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments oh, yeah, I was gonna mention it too...the story was much more humorous than the movie, I thought
there were lots of funny things, particularly considering the overall sadness
I think that maybe it was a mercy that at the end of his life when he was turning into a baby, he forgot his whole life...it would probably be kinder that way than for him to be a helpless baby and knowing that his life was at an end


message 21: by Tressa (last edited Feb 28, 2012 12:22PM) (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I don't know much about the Fitzgerald's relationship. I do know that he was so in love with Zelda and courted her madly. (She's from Alabama, woo hoo!) But his drinking and her mental problems destroyed them. Don't know if that's true about him being a bastard to Zelda. Never heard that one. The library had a big scrapbook of their life together and I loved looking at photos of what Zelda called her "Elizabeth Arden" face.

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I can't hate on F. Scott too much since he penned a favorite quote: "After a certain degree of prettiness, one pretty girl is as pretty as another." I think of this every time someone's going on an on about some girl's looks. Yes, she's pretty, most of them are! But one's pretty looks normally doesn't trump the other's.

The BB movie is just a prime example of Hollywood's schmaltzy idea of romance. I mean, it's a movie I enjoyed and loved how it manipulated my emotions, but it's not a great movie by any stretch. I think I mainly love it for the punch it gave to my heart as it showed her walking the toddler down the sidewalk and stopping over to kiss him, holding the 1-year-old on her lap in the porch swing, and finally rocking the baby as he closed his eyes for the last time. I must be sick to like stuff that makes me feel sad, no?

Yes, I think you're right about the Alzheimer's issue, Amanda. This was especially true when the movie showed an angry early teen who didn't know how to deal with the de-aging and he struck out in anger at everyone around him because he knew he was forgetting.

It is a kinder thing for the baby not to remember. He doesn't know...but we do.


message 22: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Lyons (amandamlyons) Michael wrote: "Very nice discussion -- all they all so illuminating or is this beginner's luck?

From my oh-so-limited male perspective -- egad, treading on thin ice here -- I almost forgave Benjamin for his trea..."


I was also living in fear for that poor woman until she showed up later Michael O_o could you imagine?


message 23: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Uhm, no, not all discussions are like this one. But, hey, you got me, Amanda, Jenn, and Bandit here and we like to talk. :-D Plus, I'm an insufferable English major trained to squeeze blood from a turnip.

I am not as hard on married couples and their shortcomings like some are. Look, you can't help it if you find that you have nothing in common or just don't like the person like you thought or there's nothing much of value there to salvage. And Benjamin really did exist in extraordinary circumstances, no? And keep in mind that as he aged he became younger and forgot stuff that may have been important to him earlier, and he acted less mature. You know how younger people are so self-centered!

Wonder if this was a really early story of F. Scott's? You know how you read earlier stuff of your favorite writers and it's just not up to scratch like their later stuff after they've honed their craft. Or maybe he just writes better men and doesn't know what to do with his women characters. Maybe he was just anxious to get to the meat of this great little story, which is Benjamin and his backward-aging experiences.

In the movie the lives of Benjamin and Daisy are so entwined for so long that the scene where she rocks the baby to his eternal sleep is very affective and is a big pay off for the viewer. She rocks the baby and he looks up at her and then peacefully closes his eyes. She pulls the blanket over his face so we'll get that he's dead and not just sleeping.

But even that doesn't have the punch of the baby dying in his crib alone, the world fading out for the last time.


message 24: by Bandit (last edited Feb 28, 2012 03:35PM) (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments wait...so am I correct in presuming that his mother dies at childbirth? cause she's not mentioned once since
the female characters in the movie were much stronger and more permanent, like the woman who raises him and his his love and even the lover he has on the ship
I think Fitzgerald just pretty much told this story from a man's point of view about a man surrounded by men, generations of the Button family...but I haven't read any of his other works to know if that was a conscious choice or he just wasn't as adept in writing female characters
my SO's read Great Gatsby and said that it also lacked female characters and ones that were there, were not very well developed


message 25: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I think Michael said BB's mother pops up later in the book. I don't recall.

You know, it's hard to get a reading on how adept F. Scott was at writing for Daisy and that golf cheater because both are superficial characters to begin with—that's part of the story. Wealthy, vacuous women who lounge about waiting for something to happen, and, as Nick mentions later, they smash up people's lives and leave others to clean up their messes.

BB the story is about a man and it seems like it's written for men.


message 26: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments I agree....it is definitely a "man story". The women do not play a big role in the short story (which may be a slight short coming on Fitzgerald's part). Maybe if he had expanded a bit on the mother as well. I often wondered about her after she gave birth to an OLD man.

I really cannot fault the growing apart of the marriage either....it happens. It is a partnership and when one is aging and the other is anti-aging...well it may not hold up especially since BB is the one going backward....how much does he really remember until he reaches teenage years? I tend to think he did okay in the memory department until around 18....then it really went downhill.

Although I know the father was in a state of shock....I was astonished at the treatment he portrayed to his child (even if he was an old man). He really showed no compassion at all.

"Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button were not pleased, and Benjamin's grandfather was furiously insulted." Here is a quote from the story indicating to me the mother did not die. Plus there are at least two references to his "parents".


message 27: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I think F. Scott kind of missed the boat by not expounding on the relationship between the mother and son. Come on, she gave birth to an old man-baby! What did she think when she saw him for the first time? That would really be something to read about.

BB's father and then his son both treated him like crap Not very many kind and understanding people in his life. Hell, his nanny!


message 28: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments Oh yes totally......I think either expanding the mother aspect or even writing a sequel about her relationship really would have completed the story. She is such a big key to who BB was (IMO)....as he is part mother and part father.


message 29: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments Maybe Fitzgerald was just not very good at writing female characters and he stuck to what he wrote best...I feel like his male characters were fairly apt for the time and the society they grew up in, particularly the father...the son was sort of a jerk
it's funny how his father and son both tried to ignore his condition or hold him responsible for it, I can't help but think that that's the way they must have treated many mental conditions/disorders back then too, because they didn't have a name for it or a way to understand it
the moment that really stuck with me was when he says he thought his aging would stabilize once he reached a reasonable age, but from that point on it just sort of spiraled down and there was nothing he could do


message 30: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I'd have to read more Fitzgerald to determine if he can write women well. I can't just go on Daisy Buchanan because she's not much substance to begin with. (Stephen King is excellent at writing women, and so is Khaled Hosseini. Hosseini's Miriam in A Thousand Splendid Suns is just a joy to discover).

Yes, I agree the son was a brusque jerk, but I can't imagine what he was going through; I can't imagine what they all were going through.


message 31: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments I imagine it's a condition much like old age senility where a person becomes quite helpless and reverses to childlike qualities, but in this case he actually looked like a child too...it's probably tough to deal with for sure, but his son must have had help/servants around the house (they were well to do), so he could have shown more kindness
on the other hand, this is the man who pretty much abandoned his mother and wasn't that present in his life sounds like, so it's sort of understandable why he doesn't like him


message 32: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments This was my first Fitzgerald story.
Although i cannot imagine what it would be like to go thru that i do know have a disability is not easy to deal with especially as a child. It is sort of looked at like a burden.....i am sure that is what his father and son thought.


message 33: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Another famous short story of his is "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." That sounds girlish—maybe this could be the proof we need to determine if he can write for females.


message 34: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments I should read more Fitzgerald. Thanks, Tressa, for choosing this story and posting a link. Excellent choice and so convenient.


message 35: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments You're welcome. I've been itching for a while to discuss this story.

I'll pick another one Friday (if that's OK with people if I choose). I'll find another one online so it'll be convenient, too.


message 36: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments Sounds great Tressa! This is really my first attempt at short stories and so far so good.


message 37: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments yes, that'd be great, looking forward to it


message 38: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Oh, I just threw out the Bernice story in case you wanted to read it some other time to see if he knows women. Maybe he doesn't send all of them running to the sanitariums.

I've got a totally different story for Friday—nothing like Benjamin Button. It's a graphic sci-fi story that I don't even know what it's about.


message 39: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments Oooo sounds interesting! I am glad you are not posting til Friday or I may be tempted to read it before studying :)


message 40: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments I will remember Bernice story in case I come across his short fiction. I've often been told that I have a "boy braaain", so Fitzgerald's work would be agreeable with me either way :)


message 41: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments It's a mind blower, Jenn.

And boy hair to go on top, Bandit. How short is your hair now? I had a pixie but it's grown out some. I need to cut it again.


message 42: by Bandit (new)

Bandit (lecturatoro) | 8224 comments it's pretty short still, but it could use a trim now
about a month ago it was REALLY short, so convenient, never had to fix it


message 43: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I like when mine's short enough to be spiky on top.


message 44: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments My hair is almost to my waist.

I will be adding Hosseini to my tbr list as well....sigh.
i think writing a short story would be hard.....keeping it deep enough without the long winded characters. Yet still giving it an emotional quality to grab on to.


message 45: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments I hate the way schools give classics a bad name. Classics sound so dry and dull, but they were just the good quality readable fiction that is being published today and that many people enjoy. A good story is a good story.

Gatsby is a favorite of mine. Such beautiful prose, especially the last few paragraphs. I'll even pick up my copy now just to read the last few pages. Hope you get around to it one day, Michael, and enjoy it.

I agree there are a lot of different ways to see ourselves in Benjamin.

I can be so long winded online, not too much IRL. But I love a meaty discussion.

When I say this short story is graphic, boy, do I mean it. But it's beautiful prose, too. Base and beautiful. I've read that the author explains the story and you see it in a different way once you know what she was getting at, but I'm putting off reading the interview until everyone has a chance to read it.

I highly recommend A Thousand Splendid Suns. It is such a beautiful book with a knock-your-socks off ending. Don't let the ending get spoiled for you. Even reading some memorable quotes from the story may give it away.

Don't ever be intimidated by your huge TBR list. The titles are there for the picking when we want to.

I dabbled in writing in my twenties but I don't have the discipline—or that other thing I'd need: talent—to write a coherent story. I think that's why I enjoy poetry so much.


message 46: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments I have written a bit as well.....all tucked away in my computer.
Schools do give classics a bad name at times.....I think it should be more open about what to read. I think sometimes teachers have read a story so much they lose sight of the fact others may have different opinions.


message 47: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Well, I think it's a combination of youth resisting reading assignments just because they want to be doing other things. Books are for sissies, lol.

I was blessed with good lit teachers in h.s. and college who welcomed different interpretations. But my husband and a friend had trouble with teachers who rejected their interpretation of a poem and short story. I think that's sad.


message 48: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) | 2035 comments Yes because interpretation is an opinion.....everyone can get something different from a story.


message 49: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Kilbride (lisajen) | 841 comments Just finished reading the story and also all the previous posts (I may need new glasses, my eyes hurt a little). I did not see the movie because I thought the premise was silly. I am glad to have read it, because I have a feeling that I will like it more the longer I think about it. You know me by now, my initial reactions to things are usually too-hastily made. I found Benjamin to be insufferably superficial (as well as the rest of his family and his wife, so I guess he didn't have much choice there). I'd've liked to see a little introspection. Also, I was reminded of "Flowers For Algernon," which was made into that movie, "Charly," starring Cliff Robertson, and at the end of which I cried. Also reminded of my mom, who has dementia. "Flowers" was written after BB, and, of course, my mother has absolutely nothing to do with it, but both of these things tended to remove me from the story.
Okay to throw in here the other movies that made me cry? "Sonny," "Man Of La Mancha," and one that just recently came out, "Bullhead."
Bandit, I like what you said about his father, and then later his son, blaming him for his condition, because I do think that people are often blamed for illnesses (mental and otherwise) over which they have no control.


message 50: by Tressa (new)

Tressa  (moanalisa) | 19935 comments Lisa wrote: "(I may need new glasses, my eyes hurt a little)...."

Bandit does get a little wordy sometimes.


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