The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 1 Summary

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 1 Summary

The narrator begins his story in the first person, but doesn’t tell you anything about himself. He’s just here to present a rather incredible tale for you.

His story begins in the summer of 1860, with Roger Button and his wife, a socially prominent family in Baltimore.

Mrs. Button is having her first baby, and Mr. Button is just arriving at the hospital to meet his child for the first time.

Mr. Button is nervous; he hopes his child is a boy so he can send him to his alma mater, Yale.

Mr. Button meets his family physician, Doctor Keene, on the steps of the hospital.

Doctor Keene is irate and flustered and declares that he wants nothing more to do with the Button family. He quickly drives away.

Roger Button goes into the hospital, even more nervous than he was before. The nurse gives him the same attitude as the Doctor.

By the time he finally gets to see his child, he sees what all the fuss is about.

Mr. Button’s child is a 70-year-old man wrapped in a blanket and crammed into a crib. The "baby" immediately asks Mr. Button, "Are you my father?" (1.1.40) He wants to be taken out of the crib.

Mr. Button thinks this is some sort of joke, but the irate nurse assures him it is not.

The nurse informs Mr. Button that he will have to take his rather embarrassing child home, as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the "baby" complains that he’s hungry and that the noise of all these screaming babies is bothering him.

Roger Button is distraught; he worries mostly about what people will say.

The son complains that he needs some clothes other than this blanket, and disregards the nurse’s insistence that "babies always have blankets" (1.1.59).

Finally, Mr. Button leaves to buy his son some appropriate clothing.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 2 Summary

At the store, Mr. Button asks for some clothes for his new son, who is about six hours old.

Roger refuses baby clothes on the grounds that his son is unusually large for his age. Looking through the boys’ department, though, he curses the store for not having clothes large enough for his son.

He finally ends up buying a frilly-looking dress suit, to the clerk’s astonishment.

Back at the hospital, Button’s son complains that the outfit looks silly. He doesn’t want to be made into a monkey (1.2.20).

Mr. Button replies that he’s the one who’s been made a monkey of, so his son better stop complaining.

After Button’s son gets dressed, he looks rather ridiculous. Mr. Button takes a big scissors and cuts off a chunk of his son’s long white beard.

As the two of them leave the hospital, Mr. Button’s son wants to know what name he’ll have. His father suggests "Methuselah" for the time being.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 3 Summary

The Buttons have their son’s white hair dyed black cut short, but there is really no hiding the fact that their baby is a 70-year-old man who stands five feet eight inches tall, despite his stoop.

They end up calling him Benjamin.

The baby nurse quits her position when she sees him.

The power of denial is strong in Mr. Button.

He insists that his son is a baby and will act like a baby. He even buys him a rattle, which Benjamin wearily shakes to please his father.

Benjamin manages to find activities appropriate to his age. He reads the Encyclopedia when his father isn’t looking and even smokes his dad’s cigars once in a while.

Needless to say, this causes quite a ruckus in Baltimore, considering the social position of the Buttons.

But soon enough, the Civil War "[draws] the city’s attention to other things" (1.3.5).

Benjamin manages to reconcile himself to his peculiar circumstances, and "[takes] life as he [finds] it" (1.3.6).

He tries to please his father whenever he can by pretending he is a small boy, as he is "by nature obliging" (1.3.7).

Benjamin and his grandfather take great pleasure in each other’s company. They often sit together and talk for hours at a time.

His parents, on the other hand, feel awkward around their son and often address him as "Mr."

When he is five, Benjamin is sent to Kindergarten. He finds it dull, so his parents remove him on the grounds that he is too young for school.

By the time is he twelve, Benjamin’s parents have gotten used to him. It seems as though life is running "normally" when Benjamin looks in the mirror and realizes that he looks a lot younger than he used to look.

He begins to realize that he's aging in reverse!

Benjamin goes to his father and asks to be fitted for long trousers, since he’s grown up now and no longer a little boy. His father agrees.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 4 Summary

Benjamin’s reverse aging continues.

By the time he is eighteen he looks fifty. His hair is no longer white and his stoop is gone, so his father sends him up to Yale to take the entrance examinations. He passes and becomes a member of the freshman class.

A few days before school starts, Benjamin is called into the registrar’s office to arrange his schedule.

When Benjamin arrives, the registrar is not pleased with this apparent prank.

Benjamin tries to explain that he really is eighteen years old, but the registrar calls him a lunatic and kicks him out of the school.

As Benjamin is leaving, word quickly spreads on campus that some old lunatic tried to enter the freshman class. The boys chase after Benjamin and mock him.

As his train speeds away, Benjamin yells that the school will regret this someday.

The narrator adds: "it was the biggest mistake Yale College had ever made" (1.4.28).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 5 Summary

It’s 1880, and Benjamin is twenty years old. He begins working at his father’s hardware company. Mr. Button also starts taking him to fashionable dances, as he’s now old enough to go out socially.

The two men start enjoying each other’s company all the more. Since they look about the same age, people assume they are brothers.

One night, out at a dance, Benjamin sees a beautiful woman get out of a carriage in front of him. "It was first love," comments the narrator (1.5.6).

Benjamin’s father informs him that the young lady is Hildegarde Moncrief, the daughter of the famous General Moncrief.

Later that evening, Benjamin finally gets to dance with Hildegarde. She assumes that Benjamin and his father are brothers, and he does not dare tell her the truth.

Hildegarde guesses that Benjamin is fifty, and goes on to tell him how much she likes older men. She doesn’t want a guy her own age (in his twenties); instead, she wants a man like Benjamin. Benjamin is smitten for the rest of the night.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 6 Summary

Six months later, Benjamin and Hildegarde are engaged, to her father’s great dismay.

The story of Benjamin’s odd birth, which had almost been forgotten, is dredged up again.

Crazy rumors about Benjamin are circulated – so crazy that Hildegarde doesn’t believe any of them, even the real story.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 7 Summary

The Button Hardware store takes off, and Benjamin and Hildegarde are soon quite wealthy.

Naturally, they are welcomed with open arms into the social scene because of their money.

But fifteen years after their marriage, Benjamin has gone through some more changes.

He finds himself full of energy and vitality, as he is getting younger.

Unfortunately, Hildegarde has aged in the other direction, and Benjamin is no longer attracted to her.

Not only has she aged physically, but also she’s less energetic and more boring than when he met her. At this point she is thirty-five, and they have a fourteen-year-old son named Roscoe.

In 1898, the Spanish-American War breaks out and Benjamin leaves home to join the army. He advances, is slightly wounded, and receives a medal for his valor.

It is with regret that he finally returns home to his wife and son.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 8 Summary

When Benjamin gets home, Hildegarde is forty. He is less attracted to her than ever.

In the mirror, he sees that he now looks about thirty. This depresses him; he had hoped that, once his physical age met his actual age, this bizarre process might stop. It seems that is not the case.

Hildegarde is angry with her husband for allowing this to continue. She thinks he ought to just stop this anti-aging right now. The rift between the couple widens, and Benjamin wonders what he ever saw in her in the first place.

Benjamin is more energetic than ever. He goes out to lots of parties and dances with all the young single girls, to his wife’s anger. People remark at what an ill-matched couple he and his much older wife are, forgetting that their parents had remarked on the same ill-matched couple back in 1880.

As Benjamin is increasingly consumed with his social life, he passes off his family hardware company to his son Roscoe, who by this time has graduated from Harvard.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 9 Summary

In September of 1910, a young man who appears about twenty years old joins the freshman class at Harvard.

He neglects to mention that his son just graduated ten years earlier.

Benjamin immediately gains a prominent position in the class, because he seems older than most of the other boys. He’s also a great football player, on account of his size. He destroys the Yale football team at the annual big game.

By the end of his four years at Harvard, however, he is smaller than most of the boys in his class and no longer useful on the sports field.

In 1914, he goes home with his diploma. Hildegarde is away in Italy. Benjamin is now a moody adolescent, and his son Roscoe is married and settled and wants no connection with his scandalous father.

Benjamin decides to go to St. Midas, a prep school where many of his friends at Harvard had gone. He asks his father to drive him there and enroll him. Roscoe demands that his father stop this process and age the other way at once.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 1, Section 10 Summary

Benjamin goes upstairs and looks at himself in the mirror. His father asked him to wear fake whiskers and eyeglasses to mask his youth, but Benjamin refused sadly. He thinks how he wants to join the war, but looks too young.

Just then, Benjamin receives a letter from the government asking him to become a brigadier-general in the war on account of his service in the Spanish-American War. Excited, Benjamin packs his thing and leaves.

When he gets to a training camp in South Carolina, however, no one believes he is a real brigadier-general. He is escorted back home.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Part 2, Section 1 Summary

In 1920 Roscoe Button has his first child. At this point, Benjamin is a ten-year-old boy running around his son’s hose. Roscoe is still angry with his father for behaving this way.

Five years later, Roscoe takes his son and his father to kindergarten. This time, Benjamin thinks kindergarten is the greatest place in the world, though he sometimes feels sad when he hears the other children talk about what they will do when they grow up.

When Benjamin gets too little for kindergarten, he stays at home with his nurse, Nana. As he gets younger and younger, he doesn’t remember or dream of all the things he did when he was a grown-up. These memories "[fade] like unsubstantial dreams from his mind as though they had never been" (2.1.9).

Eventually, all there is for Benjamin is sleep and food. "Then it was all dark, and his white crib and the dim faces that moved above him, and the warm sweet aroma of milk, faded out altogether from his mind" (2.1.11).

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