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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a short story written in 1922 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby.

This story was first published in 1922 in an American magazine called Collier's Weekly and was later published in Fitzgerald's collection of short stories, Tales of the Jazz Age. To read the full text of the original short story, click here (there are 11 short chapters).

What happens in the story?
The story is about a boy who is born with the body of a 70-year-old man, and becomes younger and younger as he ages - in other words, Benjamin is aging backwards! Button is from a prosperous family in Baltimore, Maryland (U.S.). While he is born looking very old, he encounters various mishaps because of this. He does manage to do normal things, like fall in love, get married and join the ranks in the Spanish-American War. While he is able to live a relatively normal life midway through, he encounters many problems at the beginning and the end. This makes for great laughs, but is also very melancholic when you see the struggles he encounters. I won't spoil the ending for you - you'll have to read the story yourself!

Inspiration
Fitzgerald said: "This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain's to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end."


A blockbuster movie
A movie based on this story comes out in late December 2008. The film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button features Brad Pitt as the protagonist and Cate Blanchett.

An article by Esquire magazine explains that Benjamin will be played at almost every age by Brad Pitt, with his head put on other actors' bodies. When Benjamin is old, the role will be played by a smaller actor. The same scene will then be reshot with Pitt playing Benjamin. The movements of both actors' faces are tracked and Pitt then replaces the original actor's face.

See the movie trailer below:


About the author
F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American writer who wrote novels and short stories. His tales are about the excessive and superficial lifestyles of the "Jazz Age", or the 1920s. He coined this famous term himself. He writes about themes of youth and promise along with despair and age. His famous novels include The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and The Damned, Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon. He is regarded as one of the 20th century's greatest writers, and is famous for the phrase "there are no second acts in American lives". This quote is a reflection of his writing on the American dream and lifestyle.

Photo Credits:
Fancast
University of South Carolina
Wikipedia

  1. MayMay saidMon, 06 Oct 2008 15:51:32 -0000 ( Link )

    Thanks for posting this lesson, Tiffany! Sounds like a must see.

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  2. lucyinthesky saidMon, 29 Dec 2008 10:00:35 -0000 ( Link )

    I just watched this movie tonight…it was amazing! The story is very tragic, but beautiful and has a lot of humourous moments as well. It has some really profound things to say about life, death, experiences and time. I highly recommend it. It’s a bit long though – 3 hours! But you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

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  3. windwind saidTue, 30 Dec 2008 07:55:46 -0000 ( Link )

    I found it passable at best.
    Forrest Gump anyone?

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  4. windwind saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 14:46:03 -0000 ( Link )

    Oh well, I do beg to disagree!

    For one I think the movie was too long.

    Therefore I found it a bit boring and quite predictable.

    The similarity to FG was annoying to me. How many more tough but sensitive sea captains are there?(at the risk of sounding awfully cynical).

    True that nothing perfect lasts forever, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Someone once said that life is never short. It is indeed the longest thing to experience until you die.

    And ask a child what he wants and the answer will be : to grow up. To experience things. Most definitely not to remain young.

    And for that matter: ask almost any adult if they would like to be a child or a teen again and I believe the answer would be No.

    What, to return to those days of dependancy, cruel peers, annoying adults, no freedom and so on? No Way!

    Sorry but away with the cliches for me.

    Am I being too blunt?

    Can you view these views as new and fresh, unusual, sure, but interesting for all that? I am not expressing them just to be contrite, I really do believe they’re solid, But I am trying to fence off the counter attack.

    But feel free of course to disagree

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  5. lucyinthesky saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 16:02:56 -0000 ( Link )

    No, I definitely like hearing other points of view! But I for one would love to go back in time and fix any mistakes or change what I could have. I’m sure a lot of adults would love to be young again – to relive days of innocence, of life without obligations, of promise and of optimism in the future. Sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we had once hoped it could be.

    The movie is definitely predictable, I don’t think there could be any way around the ending.

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  6. oLahav saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 16:19:45 -0000 ( Link )

    Windwind- I haven’t watched the movie, but I like one of your points. This is exactly the problem I had with the Catcher in the Rye (yeah, back to that one)- no teenager in his right mind would want to stay young and not grow up. Kids want to grow up. I’m not sure whether adults want to be young again or not, I would imagine some would and some wouldn’t. But in general I think people want to move forward with life, experience new things, and just live. Moving backwards or staying in one place wouldn’t make any sense.

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  7. lucyinthesky saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 16:39:23 -0000 ( Link )

    I don’t think you can completely negate the idea, especially if you haven’t seen the movie. The film quotes Kierkegaard in its trailer – “Life can only be understood backwards, must be lived forward.” So basically what you’re saying is something that is addressed in the film; in fact, I think what you’re saying is exactly what the film is trying to say. Whether a person wishes to be young, turn back time to do things over, et cetera ultimately they have to let go of their situation in order to move on with their lives, no matter how hard it is. I don’t know – maybe I’m crazy and am the only person who enjoyed it, haha.

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  8. oLahav saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 16:48:22 -0000 ( Link )

    Ok, then I’m supporting the film’s idea. I don’t know, I was just agreeing with Windwind’s comment, not trying to comment on a movie I didn’t watch. I just don’t really like the idea that “youth is wasted on the young”, I’m glad youth belongs to the young and adulthood to adults, and doing it the other way around wouldn’t make any sense (which I’m guessing is one of the point of the movie, since the guy’s aging backwards and that). And I’m sure you’re not the only person who enjoyed the movie.

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  9. windwind saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 17:00:46 -0000 ( Link )

    Good points!

    I guess it’s true that some adults would want to go back in time and some wouldn’t. I guess it has to do with what kind of childhood/teens one’s had. The popular ones would love to experience it again, the ones that were taunted – not so much. And again that’s a bit oversymplified. There are so many factors, specific periods, occasions and so on.

    It’s also true that the feeling you may have when young that you can achieve just about anything you set your mind to can be replaced by a disappointment at the obstacles life’s thrown your way.

    But the remedy to that I guess is adjusting your dreams and counting your blessings.

    Have you seen the new series “Being Erica” by the way? I didn’t like the actress (too neurotic for my taste) but the idea was interesting – that of going back in time to correct past mistakes only to make new ones! Fixing one situation may cause unforseen problems in another. Interesting!

    Anyway back to the main issue – I agree with oLahav – young does not necessarily mean innocence, carefree wonderful life. Maybe it’s the adults who raise us or the natural cruelness and selfishness that children posses but it is not without its trials. Maybe that’s what prepares us for the “real” life ahead and if we live in a kind of dream or fantasy about it we may all end up like Holden Caulfield…

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  10. lucyinthesky saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 17:04:35 -0000 ( Link )

    Very true. I certainly wouldn’t wish anyone to be as disappointed and disillusioned with life the way Holden Caulfield was.

    I have seen the advertisements for Being Erica, it does have an interesting premise. :)

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  11. avicster saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 21:14:41 -0000 ( Link )

    Somebody mention Holden ol’ boy? I could sense it :)
    Naah I’d better not go down that road again. Although that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few roads I’d love to go down again.

    That, for me, is the “moral of the story”, if you please. There’s always a part of your life you’d rather live again, maybe even wanna be stuck in forever. When Fitzgerald wrote the story, he actually set out to prove Twain wrong. The story shows that the best part of your life doesn’t in fact come at the beginning. You’re as helpless and dependent as a child as you’re as an old person. However, there is a certain “golden period” for most of us, that we look forward to as children and then look back upon longingly as senior citizens. Depending on individual experiences, this may vary greatly. But it’s safe to say that it doesn’t come towards either the beginning or the end. In many cases it starts towards late adolescence and lasts till “the hardness of this world slowly grinds your dreams away, and you lose yourself in work to do, work to do and bills to pay”, to quote The Boss.

    As a child or a young teenager you’re curious about the world, and even more so about your own abilities. You see people you admire, and you think, “can that be me”? You’re anxious to test yourself, to see what you can achieve, and so you can’t wait to grow up. As a really old man you’re past your prime. You’ve seen your best, and you wish you could be your best again. You’re not looking forward to anything except the end, and that’s only because you don’t have a time machine. If you were an achiever, you’d love to live those moments again. If you screwed up, you’d wish for a second chance.

    Of course, for some people, the wonder years may be overrated. Some are too ambitious to achieve everything they can while they can, others enjoy middle-age as much as youth. But even for ambitious people, the game is more fun towards the start and the little achievements that start them out on the path to bigger success matter more. Going back to that old cliche of the journey being more important than the destination, very often people may start running out of destinations as they grow older. Many may find the “real world” just too damn hard, which makes them wanna go back to simpler times. This does not necessarily mean childhood.

    I’m reminded of Philip Roth’s “Everyman”, which I just finished reading. It is about a retired man who battles with the various health problems that often accompany old age, and simply can’t get the image of his young and healthy self out of his mind. It is at least partly autobiographical, so the author knew what he was talkin’ about.

    Of course, if you were witness to WWII as a young man, you’re likely to end up being as cynical of life as a whole as Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller. Who knows, you may even come unstuck in time a la Billy Pilgrim, and then you’d never miss any moment cos you’d live each of them all the time :)

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  12. lucyinthesky saidWed, 14 Jan 2009 22:52:13 -0000 ( Link )

    Very interesting thoughts…and thank you for not going down the Caulfield road. :)

    There is a certain image of ourselves that we hold and sooner or later that image is no longer an accurate representation of who we are. Learning to adapt to who we have become is hard, I suppose by nature we want things to stay the way they are if they’re good. Sometimes you know or experience too much, you longer for what “once was” – yet all these experiences come together to form who we are and are an indication that we are living our lives.

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  13. windwind saidSat, 17 Jan 2009 03:25:16 -0000 ( Link )

    Are these the best years of my life? I don’t know.

    I may know in a few years.

    What seems like a wonderful time of my life was fraught with anxieties that are forgotten.

    Someone once said: I do not live in the present, I am only of the past and for the future.

    Someone else said: there is no such thing as a passage of time. Time does not pass. It is always there. It is us, the people who pass in it. Therefore we live in a constant present.

    Which of them is right?

    Perhaps both..?

    Enough of this!

    To sleep.

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  14. windwind saidSun, 18 Jan 2009 11:35:24 -0000 ( Link )

    I know, I became very philosophical all of a sudden…

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  15. avicster saidMon, 02 Feb 2009 21:01:12 -0000 ( Link )

    Speaking of philosophy, check this out y’all:

  16. http://www.qwantz.com/archive/001400.html
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  • venkivety saidTue, 17 Nov 2009 13:50:53 -0000 ( Link )

    i’ve seen the film..

    it’s a must see film..

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