The Graduate (novel)

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The Graduate
The Graduate Charles Webb.jpg
Author Charles Webb
Language English
Publication date

The Graduate is a 1963 novel by Charles Webb, who wrote it shortly after graduating from Williams College. It tells the story of Benjamin Braddock, who, while pondering his future after his graduation, has an affair with the older Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner.

It was adapted into the highly successful 1967 movie The Graduate, directed by Mike Nichols and with Dustin Hoffman in the title role. Webb has stated he never felt comfortable with the attention the movie brought him because he felt it distracted from his status as a serious artist. He did not receive any royalties from the film and has stated he is glad it happened that way.[1]

On the episode of the AMC television show Movies That Shook the World devoted to the film adaptation, Webb revealed the identity of the real-life inspiration for Mrs. Robinson: Jane Erickson (exact spelling unknown), the wife of an associate of Webb's father. However, that was the extent of any similarity with the novel; Webb denied having a relationship with her.

A sequel titled Home School, which takes place ten years after the ending of the first novel, was published by Hutchinson in June 2007.

The book's creation serves as the centerpiece of the 2005 film Rumor Has It....


Part 1[edit]

In the summer of 1962, Benjamin Braddock has recently graduated from an Eastern school in Suburban, and has won a scholarship to continue his education, but he is having a small identity crisis. He flies home to Southern, and one night, all the Braddocks' friends and neighbors have been invited to a house party to celebrate. Everyone is thrilled about his numerous academic and athletic achievements, and badgers him to tell them what his plans are for the future. Benjamin, however, is disenchanted with nearly everything about his life, and is made extremely uncomfortable by their attention. Finally he retreats to his own room, and remains there for quite a while when the door opens and Mrs. Robinson steps inside, explaining that she is looking for the bathroom. After questioning him about his future, she asks him for a ride home, saying that her husband took their car, and insists she doesn't know how to drive.

When they arrive at her house, Benjamin is coaxed inside for a drink in the sun room as Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him, an action she denies. Her initial attempt is to take him upstairs to her daughter’s bedroom to show him a portrait, she then has him help unzip her dress and asks him to bring her purse up to the bathroom. He gets it and takes it up, setting it on the bed, and is turning to leave when Mrs. Robinson steps into the room naked, she tells him that she finds him attractive and wants him to know that she is available to him anytime. He goes downstairs and into the sun room when he hears Mr. Robinson, (who doesn't suspect anything as he was told that Benjamin was bringing his wife home) returning, whereupon he begins counseling Benjamin. Mrs. Robinson comes down during their chat and approves his "sound advice,” to Benjamin, "to sow a few wild oats." Mr. Robinson then suggests that Benjamin give his daughter a call the next Saturday after she returns from Berkeley, and then follows him to his car for his ride home.

During the next week, on his twenty-first birthday, Benjamin is walking around, thinking about his life. Late in the afternoon, his parents hold a party around the swimming pool in the backyard, where he puts on a diving-suit he got from his parents, and he shows everyone how he dives in a scuba demonstration. Once in the pool, however, Benjamin cannot descend because of the buoyancy of the tank on his back, so his father gives him a cement block to help him do so.

In the morning, as he is still even more discouraged, he announces his intention to go on a road trip in order to cast off the societal expectations which come with his family’s wealth and to spend his life “amongst the common people.”

Part 2[edit]

His road trip only lasts for about three weeks, he then returns and tells his parents that he was fighting a fire somewhere and talked to a lot of people. Two days after he gets home from the trip, he decides to go ahead with his affair with Mrs. Robinson. He goes to the Hotel Taft and contacts her to have her come over for a drink. Exactly an hour later, she arrives, and after a couple of glasses of wine, they decide to spend the night together, and begin their relationship, from which she infers to his possible feelings of inadequacy.

In mid-September, as Benjamin is no longer eligible for the Frank Helpingham Award Scholarship, his father has a talk with him, because he doesn't do anything except drink, smoke, watch television all day, and go out at night for hours. Ben says that he is just driving around late at night, but his father doesn't believe him. Mr. Robinson, who is unaware of his wife’s affair, comes along and tells him that his daughter is due to return from Berkeley, and encourages him to call her Thanksgiving weekend. Benjamin writes a letter to Mrs. Robinson telling her they would stop seeing each other because he is becoming a nervous wreck. Some days later though, the affairs continue. This time when they get upstairs, Benjamin wants to have a conversation with her. After speaking to her, he learns that Mrs. Robinson doesn’t love her husband. They got married because she was pregnant with her daughter, Elaine. At that time (this would have happened in the 1940s), they have not slept together for five years. She is also none too pleased with his encouragement of having Benjamin give Elaine a call.

When Elaine comes down from Berkeley several days later, the subject is brought up again. Though he promises Mrs. Robinson he will not date her daughter, his parents force his hand and say that unless if he asks her out, they are going to invite the Robinsons over for a dinner party. Benjamin decides that taking Elaine out might be far less awkward than a family dinner, so he picks her up that night, and intentionally sabotages his first date with her. He takes her to clubs like the “Renaissance”, where they are the only patrons, then to a place called the “Interior” where they dance, and then to a strip show. Finally, disgusted and humiliated, she runs out of the show in tears and that is when Benjamin realizes how cruel he has been to her. Elaine tearfully demands to be taken home and begins to walk away him. He pursues her, apologizing and calming her down, explaining that the date was their parents idea. He kisses her before they go out to dinner. Before their date is over, they go to the Hotel Taft, where he always met Mrs. Robinson. When everyone recognizes him, he explains to Elaine that he had an affair with an older married woman with a husband and a son, but doesn’t tell her who the woman is, he also agrees to ask her out again the next day.

The next morning, Benjamin had just arrived upon the Robinsons’ house. When it came to past as Mrs. Robinson threatens to tell Elaine about the affair to destroy any of his chances, he decides that he must tell her before her mother does. Inside of the house and into Elaine’s bedroom, he told her that it wasn’t just some woman with a husband and a son. Just at the moment, Mrs. Robinson appears in the doorway, and Elaine can tell from their expressions that her mother is the older woman. Before too late for Benjamin to explain, she furiously throws him out of the house, and wants nothing to do with him and returns to Berkeley. He stayed for several weeks at home, then after that for nearly a month, and Christmas had passed and the New Year of 1963 had started, he decided to marry Elaine.

Part 3[edit]

On the morning after he had made his decision, Benjamin told his parents that he was going to Berkeley to live there and make a proposal to Elaine. They are very pleased until they realize that his plan is "half-baked" and were even more jolted when he tells them that she doesn't like him. In Berkeley, Benjamin sells his car, moving into a rooming house, and after a week, he was trying to talk to Elaine for several times, but stopped every time just before he saw her. After a time he met her at the bus station on a Saturday afternoon, Elaine is uneasy in his presence, informing him that she is on her way to the zoo, where she has especially started dating another man named Carl Smith, the medical student, and so on she didn't understand what Benjamin is doing following her everywhere.

Then one morning, twice during the next week as he sees her on the street, Elaine wants to talk to him. He pointed down the sidewalk to the rooming house, and she comes by in the middle of the afternoon. Benjamin unexpectedly discovers, it becomes clear to him, that Elaine was told by her mother that he had taken advantage of her drunken state and raped her. He sets her straight, trying to tell her that it was an ordinary affair, but she refuses to believe that it was in fact her mother who craftily seduced him and suddenly she screamed. He stared at her a minute until he turned to grab the glass cup, and hurried to the bathroom to fill it up with water from the sink. Then he carried it quickly back along the hall toward his room, and gives it to Elaine. He turned and went back out into the hall, and saw two students who have come up and were standing with the landlord, Mr. Berry, who have been demanding to know what’s going on when Benjamin was able to reach for his door. Then a police officer, who has been called by the landlord after hearing Elaine scream, arrives quickly and questions Benjamin’s presence, but he pretends to say that it was a private matter, and said there won’t be anymore trouble. When the two students return to their rooms and the officer takes his word and left, he began to pack one of his things to leave after causing too many disturbances. After when Benjamin tells Elaine everything a couple seconds ago, she finally knows that her mother might be lying and questions for his future plans and says that she didn't want him to leave without it.

It was several days later that he called her, he ask her if he should leave or stay until he had some plans. Two hours later, he was ready with packing and was willing to get out of town the next morning. When he woke up in the middle of the night, he saw that Elaine was in his room and she asks him to kiss her. Then he said something to her about the marriage, but Elaine is also concerned with her future, graduating from college and her relationship with her parents if she continues to see him.

Meanwhile, when Mrs. Robinson finds out that Benjamin is in Berkeley, she sends him a telegram. He got up in the middle of the morning, picked it up and read it, ordering him to leave, or serious trouble will result. Moments later, Elaine came over and told him that she doesn't think it was a good idea, and reveals that she has already accepted another proposal from Carl Smith. After they talked a lot about him, she said she wasn't sure about this. But Benjamin was, until Wednesday, Mrs. Robinson tells her husband about the affair, when she founds out that he ignored the telegram, and didn't call her on the phone. The following noon, Elaine came over to the rooming house with the letter from her father. He wrote that he doesn't want her to marry Benjamin at any cost, it’s because he hurt his pride, but didn't have any true picture of what is happening. Elaine didn't care about what her mother told Benjamin that she never even loved her father, but she should rely on her own feelings in the matter. Mr. Robinson came the next morning, with all the details of his wife’s affair and meets Benjamin at the rooming house. Benjamin tries to reason with him, but he is barely holding back his hostility, and said that he is divorcing his wife and terminating his partnership with Mr. Braddock. Then he warns him not to get close to Elaine again, otherwise he will prosecute him to the full extent of the law and send him to prison, and when he left, he forced his daughter to drop out of school and takes her away.

The next day, after Benjamin failed to search Elaine everywhere on campus, his father arrives at the rooming house and wants to take him back home for an appointment in the morning to see a psychiatrist. At this point, Benjamin explains the sordid details between himself and Mrs. Robinson, and he refuses to leave because of Elaine, then he was explained that his parents and the Robinsons are in shambles. While Mr. Braddock is packing the suitcase, Benjamin found the money in the desk drawer, and brings them out to hide them into his pants pocket. Two minutes later, he escapes the rooming house to get away from his father by going into the bathroom in the hall, and run the water in the sink before sneaking out the front door and disappeared out of sight.

A minute later, at Elaine’s dormitory, he received a letter from her and says that she feels it’s best for her to refuse him, because her father's anger would have prevented the family from ever accepting him as her husband, and so, Elaine feels it never worked out. Benjamin returns to Pasadena, and that night, he forces himself into the Robinsons home but encounters Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. She then calls the police and play-acts by claiming that a man broke into their house, and they told him to come back within a week and will give him the whole story. He escapes from the house when he heard the police arrive, and returns to Berkeley to find Elaine’s location himself.

The next day was Saturday. Just before dawn Benjamin landed at San Francisco. He saw Carl Smith in the directory, and he called but there was no answer. The taxi drove him to Carl’s house. There he found a letter which it was written, and learns that he will marry Elaine at the First Presbyterian Church on Allen Street, in Santa Barbara. His airplane touched down in a small airport in the outskirts of Santa Barbara, just at eleven o’clock. Several minutes later, his taxi pulled to a stop in front of the First Presbyterian Church on Allen Street. When he finds a way to get inside, the ceremony is already taking place, and he can just watch everything going on while at the corridor on the second floor. Carl Smith and another boy were standing at the front of the church, wearing tuxedos with white carnations, and then Benjamin saw Mrs. Robinson in the first pew, wearing a small hat on her head. Suddenly Elaine appeared, and he stares down at a piece of white lace on the top of her head. She was walking with her father in arm to arm, and wearing a white wedding dress, whose long train followed her slowly over the thick carpet, and down toward the front of the church. Then Benjamin slammed his hands down onto the railing of the corridor and yelled out to Elaine’s name for her attention.

Soon, everyone sees him and the ceremony is interrupted. Benjamin has been encouraged when Elaine saw him, and starts going downstairs to the sanctuary to get her out of the church. By after a moment, he grabs the large crucifix and swings it in front of the guests, getting Carl back with the others. He dropped it and pulled Elaine through the door, and across the hallway and out another door onto a sidewalk in the back of the church. They ran for several blocks, and crossing one street, a car had to slam on its brakes and turn up onto the curb to avoid hitting them. Finally, Benjamin saw a bus stopped half a block ahead of them, loading passengers. The doors of the bus have closed just as they reached it. Benjamin banged them with his free hand, and they were opened. They get on the bus, and ride away to an uncertain future of their own making.

Stage adaptation[edit]

John Reid produced a play in 2000, adapted from the original novel and the movie, which was a hit both in London's West End and on Broadway and has toured the United States. There is a Brazilian version adapted by Miguel Falabella. Several actresses have starred as Mrs. Robinson, including Kathleen Turner, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Hall, Amanda Donohoe, Morgan Fairchild, Anne Archer, Vera Fischer and Linda Gray. The Broadway production in 2002 starred Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone.

The stage production adds several scenes that are not in the novel or the film. It also uses songs by Simon & Garfunkel not used in the film, such as "Baby Driver" as well as music from other popular musicians from the era such as The Byrds and The Beach Boys.


Main article: Home School (novel)

In Home School Ben and Elaine, now married and living in Westchester County, are fighting to allow for their child to be homeschooled. They turn to Mrs. Robinson to help them. The novel is set in the 1970s. In real life Webb himself had fought to have his boys homeschooled. The sequel was written about 40 years after the original book.[2]


  1. ^ "Graduate author to write sequel",
  2. ^ Glitz, Michael. "Charles Webb writes 'Graduate' sequel." New York Daily News. Saturday January 5, 2008. Retrieved on December 18, 2014.