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THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.

1. Order the following 19 events in Benjamin


Button’s timeline in the way they appear in
the story

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

• A. As Hildegarde gets older, Benjamin gets younger. He loses his attraction to her.
They have a son, Roscoe.
• B. Benjamin and his Dad go out to social dances together. One night, Benjamin
meets Hildegarde and is struck by her beauty. He dances with her, and doesn’t tell her the truth
about his age.
• C. Benjamin and his grandfather take great pleasure in each other’s company and
spend a lot of time together.
• D. Benjamin continues to get younger. When he is eighteen he passes the entrance
examination for Yale and goes up to school to register for classes.
• E. Benjamin dislikes the fancy suit he is given but complies with his father’s wishes.
• F. Benjamin is born in the hospital as a 70-year-old man. He asks his father for some
real clothes.
• G. Benjamin is dismissed by the registrar as being a fraud. He threatens that Yale
will come to regret their decision.
• H. He plays with a rattle to satisfy Mr. Button, and as he grows, contrives to break
things as a young boy should.
• i. Benjamin ends up playing with is grandson around the house as he gets to be a
child. He eventually goes to kindergarten, but then just stays at home with his nurse, Nana. He
gradually forgets everything he did as an adult, and gets smaller and smaller until he ceases to
exist
• J. His parents try to put him in kindergarten, but he finds it’s not appropriate for his
age.
• K. In 1898 Benjamin joins the army and fights in the Spanish American War. When
he returns home, his family holds less appeal for him than ever.
• L. In 1910, Benjamin appears twenty. He enrolls at Harvard University and is a
popular guy in his class. He destroys the Yale team at the football match.
• M. On his twelfth birthday, Benjamin sees that he is actually getting younger. He
asks his father for long trousers.
• N. Secretly, Benjamin reads the Encyclopedia for fun and even smokes his father’s
cigars on one occasion.
• O. Six months later, Benjamin and Hildegarde are engaged.
• P. Benjamin retreats into adolescent moodiness; his son resents him and wants
nothing to do with him.
• Q. The scandal of their marriage is muted by their growing family fortune.
• R. Benjamin begins working for his father at the family hardware company. He and
his father become good friends, as they’re now so close in age. They pass for brothers.
• S. By the time he is a senior, however, he looks too young to be held up as a leader.

2. Answer some of the following questions:


a. Does "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" have a moral, or attempt to teach
its readers a lesson of sorts?
b. Is "Benjamin Button" funny, tragic, or both?
c. How sympathetic are you to Benjamin’s character? As a reader, can you relate
to him at all, despite the peculiarity of his circumstance?
d. What does "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" teach us about the nature of
age? Comment on how “age” and “aging” are defined in the story. Do you think
they are still defined in the same way in the contemporary world? Why? Why not?
“Age is much more than a number”. How far do you agree?
e. Well-executed short stories usually cover a short period of time. How is it that
"Benjamin Button" functions well as a short piece yet covers the course of 70
years?
f. Identify and comment on how men and women are positioned in the story.
g. Why does the story always have an emphasis on “concealing” or “hiding”? What
could this tell you about the societal norms?

3. Vocabulary and expressions. Explain, in your own words, the


meanings of the words and expressions in bold. The numbers
in black indicate the page where the words can be found.
- Mr. Button had been known by the somewhat obvious nickname of “Cuff”.(1)
- Dr. Keene frowned when he saw the baby.(2)
- He snapped the word “outrageous”.(2)
- No, not triplets! answered the doctor cuttingly.(3)
- A look of utter terror spread over the girl’s face.(3)
- “I’m right glad of it”, whined the old man. (6)
- A grotesque picture of himself walking through the crowded streets with an
appalling aparition stalking by his side. “I can’t”, he moaned (6)
- This blanket itches. They might have given me a sheet and .... a cane (7)
- He viewed the contents of the box with a quizzical eye (9)
- The costume consisted of dotted docks, pink pants, and a belted blouse with a
wide white collar. Over the latter waved the long whitish beard (9)
- He’d been attired in small-boy clothes made to order by a flabbergasted tailor. (10)
- Despite his aged stoop, Benjamin was 5 feet 8 inches tall (10) (...) he had no
longer stooped and his physical condition had improved (13)
- One day his father brought home a rattle and insisted that Benjamin play with it (10)
- Banjamin was trying to conceal the butt of a dark Havana. This, of course,
called for a severe spanking. (11)
- Mr Button’s efforts were of little avail (11)
- What the mishap would have cost the Buttons and their kinsfolk cannot be
determined, for the outbreak of the Civil Ward drew the city’s attention to other
things (11)
- He spent a stiff-jointed afternoon trying to work up an interest in tops and
marbles (12).
- They seemed always somewhat in awe of him (12)
- He was to continue to dye his hair. He was not to wear his spectacles (14)
- He ought to go to prep school at his age (15)
- Blood rose into his cheek and there was a steady thumping in his ears. It was
first love (18)
- He thanked her and staggered away (18)
- If she took him for his father’s brother, would it be best to enlighten her? (19)
- The excitement in Baltimore society reached a feverish pitch (20)
- He executed his business coup (22)
- He was becoming more and more attracted by the gay side of life (22)
- Back in 1880 their mammas and papas had also remarked about this same ill-
matched pair (25). (...) then they would regret these ill-considered tauts (16)
- There was only one fly in the delicious ointment – he hated to appear in public
with his wife (26)
- The sheltered life among boys his own side would be more congenial to him
(27)
- But whiskers had itched and made him ashamed. He wept and Roscoe had
reluctantly relented (29)
- When other tots talked about what they would do when they grew up, he
realised that those were things win which he was never to share (32)
• A. Benjamin is born in the hospital as a 70-year-old man. He asks his father for
some real clothes.
• B. Benjamin dislikes the fancy suit he is given but complies with his father’s
wishes.
• C. He plays with a rattle to satisfy Mr. Button, and as he grows, contrives to
break things as a young boy should.
• D. Secretly, Benjamin reads the Encyclopedia for fun and even smokes his
father’s cigars on one occasion.
• E. Benjamin and his grandfather take great pleasure in each other’s company
and spend a lot of time together.
• F. His parents try to put him in kindergarten, but he finds it’s not appropriate for
his age.
• G. On his twelfth birthday, Benjamin sees that he is actually getting younger. He
asks his father for long trousers.
• H. Benjamin continues to get younger. When he is eighteen he passes the
entrance examination for Yale and goes up to school to register for classes.
• I. Benjamin is dismissed by the registrar as being a fraud. He threatens that Yale
will come to regret their decision.
• J. When Benjamin is twenty years old, he begins working for his father at the
family hardware company. He and his father become good friends, as they’re now so close in
age. They pass for brothers.
• K. Benjamin and his Dad go out to social dances together. One night, Benjamin
meets Hildegarde and is struck by her beauty. He dances with her, and doesn’t tell her the truth
about his age.
• L. Six months later, Benjamin and Hildegarde are engaged.
• M. The scandal of their marriage is muted by their growing family fortune.
• N. As Hildegarde gets older, Benjamin gets younger. He loses his attraction to
her. They have a son, Roscoe.
• O. In 1898 Benjamin joins the army and fights in the Spanish American War.
When he returns home, his family holds less appeal for him than ever.
• P. In 1910, Benjamin appears twenty. He enrolls at Harvard University and is a
popular guy in his class. He destroys the Yale team at the football match.
• Q. By the time he is a senior, however, he looks too young to be held up as a
leader.
• R. Benjamin retreats into adolescent moodiness; his son resents him and wants
nothing to do with him.
• S. Benjamin ends up playing with is grandson around the house as he gets to be
a child. He eventually goes to kindergarten, but then just stays at home with his nurse, Nana.
He gradually forgets everything he did as an adult, and gets smaller and smaller until he
ceases to exist.
If you’ve had your finger on the pop culture pulse in the last decade or so, you’ve
probably heard sayings like "40 is the new 30," or possibly even "the new 20,"
depending on whom you ask. When you realize that Madonna is fifty and still
making music videos with entertainers like Justin Timberlake, it’s pretty easy to
believe in the old "age is just a number" cliché.

But according to Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," age is much
more than just a number. Not only does it dictate our physical condition, but our
personality and character traits as well. Benjamin Button isn’t just born with the
body of an old man – he’s born with the mind and tastes of an old man. As he gets
younger, it’s not just his body that’s more active, but also his social interests and
passion for life. According to Fitzgerald, like it or not, age plays a big part in identity.
You are going to change as you get older, Fitzgerald tells us, and that’s just the
way it goes.

Which isn’t to say that life is downhill after 40. What makes Benjamin unhappy in
this story is having to pretend he’s an age that he isn’t. When he’s old, he really just
wants to sit around and chat with other old men. When he’s young, he’s satisfied to
play with strips of brightly colored paper. In this story of a man growing younger,
there may be a lesson or two about aging gracefully.