The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
The narrator preps you for a fantastic tale, and Roger Button is having a baby.
Of course, there are elements of conflict from the start, since we know there is something strange going on when the narrator refers to the "astonishing history" he’s about to impart. We don’t know what this astonishing thing is yet, but we do know that it has something to do with Mr. Button’s first child.
Baby Benjamin is not actually a baby,.
The obvious conflict is that Benjamin is born as an old man. Side-dish conflicts include his father’s resistance to this strange situation and the social stigma of being abnormal.
Benjamin is actually getting younger!
If you know the story of "Benjamin Button" before you start reading, this seems like it’s just part of the main conflict. But we’re not actually told that Benjamin is getting younger until several pages into the tale, and it comes as quite a surprise to the main character himself.
The classic short story is built around its climax. Yet you’ll have a hard time pegging the climax in "Benjamin Button." We don’t build up to one particular scene and there is no one event in Benjamin’s life that dominates this plot line. One possible choice, however, might be the scene in which Benjamin meets Hildegarde. The grandeur of the prose and the intensity of emotion signals this moment as climax-esque, and yet the plot doesn’t exactly hinge on Benjamin’s marriage.
Again, not such an easy stage to assign.
If you’re like us, you probably spent a good part of your "Benjamin Button" read wondering what was going to happen to Benjamin in the end. Would he become a fetus? Would he Simply disappear? Would someone end up pregnant with Benjamin? But these questions aren’t exactly suspenseful as much as curiosities on the part of the reader, and these are not confined to a particular segment of the text. Again we see that "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" doesn’t follow a typical short story plotline.
At least the last half of the story.
After the marriage to Hildegarde, most of "Benjamin Button" is imbued with a sense of falling action. We get much of the narrative in summary, rather than scene, as we wind down to an inevitable conclusion (Benjamin’s death).
Part II of "Benjamin Button" can be read as the story’s conclusion. Things go pretty much the way we expected; Benjamin gets younger and younger until his life is over. Fitzgerald has the difficult task of painting a picture of a very unusual sort of death, which we’ll talk more about in "What’s Up With the Ending?"