F. Scott Fitzgerald Guide Questions
“Bernice Bobs Her Hair”
1. How can these stories be placed, if at all, in terms of Fitzgerald’s life? In terms of the cultural and historical background?
2. In what ways do these stories reflect or differ from other Fitzgerald works you may have read?
3. What familiar Fitzgerald themes do you find repeated and/or developed in these stories?
4. Discuss the perceptions Fitzgerald presents in the two stories. Are they generally accurate or are they as outdated as the 1920s in which he flourished? Is even his fantasy rooted in the 1920s?
5. Is “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” merely an amusing anecdote, or does it reach deep into the problems of relations between the sexes and between those of the same sex?
6. What is the function of “Eau Claire” in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”?
7. Why does Bernice decide to bob her hair? Why does she then regret it?
8. Is Bernice justified in the revenge she takes on Marjorie? What are your reactions to the ending?
9. How does Fitzgerald orchestrate the structure of events to make the bobbing of the hair and its aftermath the logical outcome of the situation?
10. How do you react to the society and the character types depicted in the story?
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
1. How does Fitzgerald, in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," use tone and style to create a world that is fantastical and dreamlike, yet realistic?
2. How does Fitzgerald employ humor in the story? In what ways is the idea of someone aging in reverse inherently humorous? How does Benjamin’s aging in reverse help you understand the story, the issues it deals with, and its characters?
3. By the time Benjamin takes over his father's company, his relationship with his father is dramatically different. Fitzgerald writes, "And if old Roger Button, now sixty-five years old, had failed at first to give a proper welcome to his son he atoned at last by bestowing on him what amounted to adulation." Benjamin's reverse aging is responsible for many of the highs and lows of his relationships with his father and his son. Do you think these relationships in some ways parallel those of all fathers and sons?
4. How does this story, though written almost a century ago, reflect our society's current attitude toward age and aging?
5. What is ironic about Benjamin marrying a "younger" woman? What does the story reveal about our perceptions of age and beauty?
6. The happier Benjamin becomes in his career, the more strained his marriage grows. Fitzgerald writes, "And here we come to an unpleasant subject which it will be well to pass over as quickly as possible. There was only one thing that worried Benjamin Button: his wife had ceased to attract him." Why does he fall out of love with Hildegarde?
7. How does Fitzgerald use Benjamin's condition to ridicule social norms?
8. When Benjamin returns from the war, Hildegarde, annoyed with his increasingly youthful appearance, says, "You're simply stubborn. You think you don't want to be like any one else....But just think how it would be if every one else looked at things as you do -- what would the world be like?" Later Fitzgerald writes of Roscoe, "It seemed to him that his father, in refusing to look sixty, had not behaved like a 'red-blooded he-man'...but in a curious and perverse manner." What is significant about their attitudes? How is it ironic that Hildegarde and Roscoe seem to believe that Benjamin should control his aging?
9. What does the story reveal about class and race issues?
10. In what ways would you call Benjamin’s being perceived as a source of shame or a threat symbolic? What would his otherness suggest about his society’s attitude toward him?