The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Roger Button’s character is a key element of the social satire of "Benjamin Button." When his son is first born, he can think of nothing but the threat such an oddity poses to his social status. "A grotesque picture formed itself with dreadful clarity before the eyes of the tortured man," we are told, "a picture of himself walking through the crowded streets of the city with this appalling apparition stalking by his side" (1.1.54). When he goes shopping to buy his son a suit, he thinks of his "shameful secret" and later yells at his son for making a monkey of him (1.2.7). His concern is not about Benjamin – it’s about his own reputation.
Fitzgerald also satirizes, again through Roger, man’s ability to deceive himself to no end. Wishful thinking is a powerful concept, and never more clear than with Roger, who convinces himself that his son fails out of kindergarten for being "too young" (1.3.10). "It was part of Roger Button’s silent agreement with himself to believe in his son’s normality," explains the narrator (1.3.17).
Interestingly, Roger eventually comes around and learns to embrace his son. "If old Roger Button, now sixty-five years old, had failed at first to give a proper welcome to his son," we’re told, "he atoned at last by bestowing on him what amounted to adulation" (1.7.5). We should note, however, that Roger isn’t able to do this until Benjamin’s relative age is correctly proportioned to his own. He can’t really embrace Benjamin as a son until Benjamin is younger than he.