The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (short story)

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"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
1922 magazine cover
Text available at Wikisource
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Short story
Published inCollier's
Publication typeMagazine
Media typePrint (magazine)
Publication dateMay 27, 1922

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a short story about a man who ages in reverse, from senescence to infancy, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in Collier's Magazine on May 27, 1922, with the cover and illustrations by James Montgomery Flagg. It was subsequently anthologized in Fitzgerald's 1922 book Tales of the Jazz Age, which is occasionally published as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories.[1] The story was later adapted into the 2008 namesake film and the 2019 stage musical.


Benjamin Button is born in Baltimore in 1860 with the physical appearance of a 70-year-old man, and already capable of speech. His father, Roger, invites neighbourhood boys to play with him and orders him to play with children's toys, but Benjamin obeys only to please his father. At five, Benjamin is sent to kindergarten, but he is quickly withdrawn after he repeatedly falls asleep during the children's activities. At the age of 18, Benjamin enrolls in Yale College, but he is sent home by officials who think that he is a 50-year-old lunatic. When Benjamin turns 20, the Button family realizes that he is aging backwards.

In 1880, when Benjamin is 20, his father gives him control of Roger Button & Co. Wholesale Hardware. Benjamin meets the young Hildegarde Moncrief, a daughter of General Moncrief, and falls in love with her. Hildegarde mistakes Benjamin for a 50-year-old brother of Roger Button and, as she prefers older men, she marries him six months later. She remains ignorant of his condition.

Years later, Benjamin's business has been successful, but he is tired of Hildegarde because her beauty has faded and she nags him. Bored at home, he enlists in the Spanish–American War in 1898 and achieves military triumphs, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He retires from the Army to focus on his company, and receives a medal.

In 1910, Benjamin, now looking like a 20-year-old, turns over control of his company to his son, Roscoe, and enrolls at Harvard University. His first year there is a great success: he dominates in football and takes revenge against Yale for having rejected him years before. However, during his junior and senior years he is the equivalent of 16 years old, too weak to play football and barely able to cope with the academic work.

After graduation, Benjamin returns home, only to learn that his wife has moved to Italy. He lives with Roscoe, who treats him sternly, and forces Benjamin to call him "uncle." As the years progress, Benjamin grows from a moody teenager into a child. Eventually, Roscoe has a child of his own, who later attends kindergarten with Benjamin. After kindergarten, Benjamin slowly begins to lose his memory of his earlier life. His memory fades away to a point where he cannot remember anything except his nurse. Everything fades to darkness shortly after.

First appearance in Collier's, May 27, 1922, p. 5.

See also[edit]

  • Hyperion (1989), a novel by Dan Simmons in which one of the characters, Rachel, also ages backwards.


  1. ^ F. Scott Fitzgerald (2008). The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-310549-7.

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