University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
An Analysis of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgeraldon May 1922. It was later adapted into a movie in 2008. The story is one of its kinds as it is about a person named Benjamin Button who is born with a body of a dying man in his 80s. As the story progress, Benjamin finds out that his physical states are becoming better as he grow. The story mainly focuses on Benjamin’s life particularly on his relationships where he has to go through a lot of conflicts of life. In the resolution, it ends with Benjamin who is also a baby, breathing on his last breath. There are a lot of symbols depicted in the story particularly in the 3 hour movie version which contains symbolisms such as the hummingbird, the clock in New Orlean’s Train Station, the 7 lightning strikes, and Lake Portchartrain.
The first symbol is the hummingbird. The bird symbolizes two things which are Benjamin’s life and concept of eternity. Looking at the nature of the bird, it is extremely small in size and in fact, it is the smallest bird in the world. They are very petite and fragile that a single squeeze by a human can instantly kills it. The bird is rarely found because they do not fly in groups. Plus, this is the only kind of bird that has the ability to fly backwards. To relate on the story, the hummingbird appears itself two times; at the sea where Captain Mike Clark dies during the war and outside the Hospital window during the Hurricane Katrina when Daisy is on her deathbed. What makes it ironic is the fact that hummingbirds would not possibly survive in those kinds of events because they are physically weak. The bird cannot fly for too long nor handle rough winds. But they are different in the story. This is why the hummingbird symbolizes Benjamin’s life. Although he is born with a body of a dying man, brittle bones, wrinkled skin and even the doctor Queenie called for says that he will die very soon, it never happens. Benjamin keeps on growing strong and moves forward. Moreover, the hummingbird’s ability to fly backwards describes the way Benjamin’s life moves, backwards. Furthermore, Captain Mike Clark has a hummingbird tattoo on his chest. When he was a kid, he dreams of becoming an artist but his father never supports him, saying that he must continue the father’s legacy of being a sail man. It is mentioned in the story where he tells Benjamin about the significance of hummingbird. The wings of a hummingbird look very much like the symbol of eternity, ∞. Eternity is the idea of life that never ends. Benjamin knows that he is the only one of his kinds and sooner or later, his story will die along his death. Thus, in order to retain his story, he writes a diary and passes it to Daisy so that his daughter will have it. By doing that, his life may end but his journeys will remain for eternity.
Next is the clock in New Orleans built by Monsieur Gateau. He made the clock to tick anti-clockwise because he wants it to be a reminder for all to never forget about the fallen heroes of World War 1. Gateau’s only wish is to turn back time so that he can have his son back who died during the War. The movement of the clock has 2 symbolisms. One is the same symbol as the hummingbird’s ability to fly backwards. The clock is a symbol of Benjamin’s physical state in his life where his body starts from old to young. Another symbol for the clock is that it symbolizes fate’s dominance over life. For Gateau, he is afraid that life is moving by him. He could not accept the reality that his son is no more to be found. It pretty much kills him on the inside that results him to exile from the country. This goes the same towards Benjamin life, no one would wish themselves to be abnormal like him but the thing is, there is no control over it. People can only accept how things go and move on. Another example is Daisy’s car accident, she is capable, talented and has a bright future career in ballet but one accident changes all of it. It is very clear that every action people do, every hard work they put in, every words of prayer they say will eventually depends on one’s own absolute fate. This indicates that people do not have the power to control the future, they can only plan and organize it and leave the rest to fate. Plus, it also questions people whether they are using their time wisely or not because clock never stops ticking. To relate back on Gateau, his action of making the clock from turning how it is supposed to turn (clockwise) can be considered as an act of denial towards fate.
The third symbolism found in this story is the lightning that strikes Mr Daws seven times. Mr Daws keeps on saying the same thing to Benjamin as he recalls how he got struck by lightning seven times. The symbolism that can be related to this is the number of lightning strikes Mr Daws get; seven. This is a symbol of sin a, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. A person can only be in the stage of integrity or despair if he is living in a retirement house, waiting for his death as referred to Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development because old people tend to review their life and reflect on what they have done. Mr Daws could most probably be in despair; regretting actions that he had done in the past. He once mentioned to Benjamin that he is blinded because of one of the lightning that struck him. But the truth is his eyes were never blinded. This shows that Mr Daws is not saying that lightning literally strikes him 7 seven times, but he is just reminiscing about his regrets in life. It shows how much pain and regret he is in that he would not mind it if lightning would ever strike him. Another symbol that has the same meaning as the lightning strikes is the lake Benjamin’s father usually goes to when he was a kid; Lake Portchartrain. Benjamin knows about the existence of this house when his father told him about it. Despite feeling hurt of being abandoned when he was a child by his own father, he brings his father to the lake. This is his way of showing that he forgives his father’s wrongdoings toward him. There at the lake, they do not do any talking, there is only silence as they watch the sunrise. There is a big difference between the ending of Mr Daws and Thomas Button. For Mr Daws, he leaves the world feeling regret while Thomas would surely feel his life as positively integrated because he finally gets to be with his only son, Benjamin whom he thought would never forgive him.
In my opinion, the story is very heartwarming. It can open anyone’s heart just by reading or watching it because that was the feeling I felt when I finished watching the movie version. Not only it carries a lot of moral values, the issues depicted in it are very significant for someone to realize the importance of time management. The best moral value that I managed to get from this story is that we must be thankful for the life we have and the things we have today because all of these may never be the same tomorrow. As a conclusion, people must know their purpose of life so that they would not waste it like how it is depicted in this story.