When you wish upon a star, dreams really can come true. Imagine having the wisdom that comes only from old age with the added advantage of growing younger every day. A journey such as this could be a frightening and absurd aging process or it could be a humorous and enjoyable way of life. F. Scott Fitzgerald chooses the latter to tell a story of Benjamin Button; a man who is born old and ages backwards. His portrayal of Benjamins life is filled with satire and humour presented in a fantastical way that creates an overall dramatic effect. The elements of fantasy in the book are the unrealistic and completely impossible concepts that the story is based on. The fantasy is created through the use of juxtaposition and contrast and the satire in the story exposes and attacks characters within the fictional society and holds them up to be ridiculed. F. Scott Fitzgerald has been very successful in creating such a satirical fantasy through Benjamin Button by using numerous different and effective literary techniques.
Firstly, Fitzgerald successfully creates fantasy through the effective use of juxtaposition. He does not in any way try to be realistic. Benjamin is born as a fully grown old man with long whiskers and the ability to speak. For this reason, it is quite a strange concept that the story begins with Mr. Button greeting his new born son, a baby of threescore and ten" with his feet hanging "over the sides of the crib in which it was reposing."(Chapter One, Page 4) This technique is shown numerous times in the beginning of the story while Benjamin is growing up (experiencing his first years on earth). Benjamin is seen as an old man, playing with a rattle at regular intervals; He [Mr. Button] brought home a rattle for his son and insisted that he play with it. (Chapter Three, Page 8) This is an effective use of juxtaposition as it creates a fantastic element within the story. As the story continues it becomes more and more impossible and therefore more humorous and filled with fantasy. In Chapter Ten, Benjamin Button appears to be quite young, but is still trying to be part of the United States Army. Fitzgerald describes Benjamin to be a young boy in his generals costume as he is sent home. Whose little boy are you? he [the colonel] demanded... Two days later, the weeping general [Benjamin] was escorted back to his home, sans uniform. (Chapter Ten, Page 20) This not only changes the note of the story to a poignant and melancholy tone, but it also emphasizes the storys fantasy through the use of juxtaposition.
The element of fantasy in Benjamin Button is also created through the use of contrast. In Chapter Five, Benjamin and Mr. Button are riding in a phaeton to a fashionable dance. Mr. Button and Benjamin are described to be almost the same age in terms of appearance, so close in fact that they could almost pass for brothers; They appeared almost the same age; they could have passed for brothers... You and youre brother got here just as we did, didnt you?[Hildegard to Benjamin]. (Chapter Five, Page 11 and 13) This contrast between Mr. Button and Benjamin highlights the fact that Benjamin is a unique being and it emphasises the impossibility of the situation, creating an overall fantastic effect.
Secondly, Fitzgerald creates a very effective satirical element to Benjamin Button through the use of contradiction. The main person who is ridiculed by the cruel use of satire is Benjamin Buttons father; Roger Button. Fitzgerald creates a very clear social and political world around Mr. Roger Button. He and his wife held an enviable position, both social and financial, in ante-bellum Baltimore. They were related to This Family and to That Family, which, as every Southerner knew, entitled them to membership in that enormous peerage which largely populated the confederacy"(Chapter One, Page 1) Mr. Button is placed in an environment where social status really matters; and it is there that Fitzgerald is able to satirise his general obsession with society, reputation, and image. It is this obsession that made it very difficult for Roger to come to terms with the fact that his son is an old man. When Roger Button goes to the store to buy clothes for his son, he is distressed to find that there are no suitable outfits for a 70-year-old man. The problem, of course, is that he is looking in the boys department. What we see from the start is that Rogers insistent self-delusion is the big problem here. If he had accepted the fact of his sons age, given in, and went to an appropriate store, he wouldnt have had a "shameful secret" to hide from the store clerk. (Chapter Two, Page 6) We see Mr. Buttons denial again and again in the first few segments of the story; he insists that Benjamin play with a rattle, break things around the house, and play with children his own "age."(Chapter Three, Page 8) In his attempt to keep his son as normal as possible, Roger ends up making the situation all the more bizarre. This is a contradiction of the way that Mr. Button lives his life in society and it creates a satirical effect that gives the story a humorous quality at the expense of Mr. Button.
Irony is also used successfully by the author to create satire within the story. Irony is the humour that is created through the clash between what is expected and what actually occurs or what we know and what is said. Fitzgerald uses irony in numerous ways to add a sense of humour to the situation. In Chapter Five, Benjamin and his father attend a fashionable dance. On the drive to the dance in the phaeton, Mr Button says to his son. Old fellows like me cant learn new tricks...Its you youngsters with energy and vitality that have the great future before you. (Chapter Five, Page 12) This is satirical irony because to Mr. Button, Benjamin appears to be an old man and yet he is being spoken to as if he is only beginning his life. All of these uses of irony help to create an impressive and effective satirically humorous story.
It is true that Benjamin is born with the ability to speak and the tendencies of an old man, but he is not immune to his own mortality. His journey is filled with the satirical humour of F. Scott Fitzgerald and is an impossibly fantastic journey created through a wide use of literary techniques such as juxtaposition, irony and contrast. Mr. Button plays a major part in the way that Benjamins life is perceived by the reader as Fitzgerald satires his obsession with social conformity through the use of contradiction. The author was able to create a successful and effective satirical fantasy that is both unrealistic but at the same time, entirely mesmerising. It is for this reason that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button remains one of Fitzgeralds best known short stories.