“But one day a few weeks after his twelfth birthday, while looking in the mirror, Benjamin made, or thought he made, an astonishing discovery. Did his eyes deceive him, or had his hair turned in the dozen years of his life from white to iron-gray under its concealing dye?”

This quote in Part 3 marks the first time Benjamin realizes that he is growing younger. It is an important plot point because it indicates a trajectory for the rest of the story. The expectation that Benjamin will continue to grow younger sets one of the major conflicts in the story. For Benjamin, this is a happy occasion because he knows he isn’t destined to remain an old man. However, the discovery creates an important sense of dramatic irony as the audience can guess that there is trouble in Benjamin’s future.

“A fever of excitement permeated the college. Men ran hatless out of classes, the football team abandoned its practice and joined the mob, professors’ wives with bonnets awry and bustles out of position, ran shouting after the procession, from which proceeded a continual succession of remarks aimed at the tender sensibilities of Benjamin Button.

‘He must be the wandering Jew!’”

This quote comes in Part 4, just after Benjamin has tried and failed to register for classes at Yale. The resulting excitement and scandal represent exactly the kind of mockery and embarrassment that so many of the characters in the story try desperately to avoid. “The wandering Jew” is a biblical reference to the story of a Jewish man who mocked Jesus on the cross and was thus cursed to walk the earth until the second coming of Christ. It is an attempt at humor underscored with cruelty, and the kind of ridicule that Benjamin is fated to endure.

“In the fifteen years between Benjamin Button’s marriage in 1880 and his father’s retirement in 1895, the family fortune was doubled—and this was due largely to the younger member of the firm.

This quote comes in Part 7 during the most stable time in Benjamin’s life. The fact that Benjamin has doubled the family’s fortune has caused the elite of Baltimore society to finally welcome the Buttons as one of their own. This passage reveals an important truth about upward mobility in America: Money opens the doors to high society and reputation, no matter how unusual or unpalatable a person may otherwise be.

“At the termination of this interview, Benjamin wandered dismally upstairs and stared at himself in the mirror. He had not shaved for three months, but he could find nothing on his face but a faint white down with which it seemed unnecessary to meddle.”

This passage comes in Part 10 and marks a final turning point in the plot and tone of the story. Benjamin has un-aged to the point where he is no longer in the prime of his life, and this moment is when Benjamin himself realizes it. The rest of his life will be an inevitable slide into childishness and ultimately oblivion. This is a shift in tone to something more wistful and poignant, and it adds a tenderness to the conclusion of the story.