How does Benjamin's reverse aging ironically mirror the modern midlife crisis?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald . It was first published in 1923. The main character in the story, Benjamin, develops opposite to how humans usually develop. Instead of being born young and growing older, he is born old and...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in 1923. The main character in the story, Benjamin, develops opposite to how humans usually develop. Instead of being born young and growing older, he is born old and grows younger every year, completely defying the laws of biology and nature. This could easily be seen as an analogy to a modern midlife crisis. A midlife crisis is usually when an older person tries to lead the life of a younger person in an attempt to still feel young and to defy their age.

In the case of Benjamin Button, Benjamin appears to be much older than he really is. Therefore, it seems very odd to his peers that he is engaging in activities that do not befit the age he visually appears to have. For example, when Benjamin tries to attend Yale College, the college registrar does not believe Benjamin when he says that he is indeed only eighteen years old. He assumes that Benjamin is much older, and therefore calls him a “dangerous lunatic” for attempting to attend college at his old age.

Another stereotypical midlife-crisis behavior pattern is the fact that people start to fall in love with people who are much younger than themselves. For example, it is a typical cliché for some men to start an affair with their much younger secretary. This could be seen as mirrored in the short story, as Benjamin Button marries Hildegarde Moncrief, who visually appears to be much younger than him. Hildegarde herself wrongly assumes that Benjamin is much older than herself. She explicitly states that she prefers older men, because "young boys are so idiotic.”

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team