The Graduate (novel)
First edition cover
|Publisher||New American Library (US)|
|Followed by||Home School|
The Graduate is a 1963 novella 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 film 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 film 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.
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 Ericson (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.
The book's creation serves as the centerpiece of the 2005 film Rumor Has It....
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Benjamin Braddock has recently graduated from a small Eastern college and has returned home to a suburb of Los Angeles. Suffering a small identity crisis, Benjamin, visibly uncomfortable as his parents deliver accolades and neighborhood friends ask him about his future plans, evades those who try to congratulate him.
He insists that he wants to be alone and to go on a walk, but eventually gives up and returns to his room. Mrs. Robinson enters his room, claiming to be looking for the bathroom, but stays with Ben, asking him strange questions and probing into his life. At the insistence of the neglected wife of his father’s law partner, he drives Mrs. Robinson home. Once at the house, Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him. Benjamin rebuffs her and quickly goes downstairs as he hears Mr. Robinson arriving home. During the next week, a day after his 21st birthday, Benjamin announces his intention to go on a road trip in order to cast off the societal expectations to spend his life “amongst the common people.”
After the trip he decides to begin his affair with Mrs. Robinson and meets her at the Taft Hotel. In mid-September, Benjamin spends the time drifting around in the pool by day, purposefully neglecting to select a graduate school, and seeing Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. One evening, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she is in a loveless marriage, because in the 1940s, she became pregnant with her daughter, Elaine, and married to avoid scandal.
After being increasingly pressured by his parents and Mr. Robinson to go on a date with Elaine, he takes her out but deliberately sabotages the date by driving recklessly and taking her to two clubs and a strip show. Elaine suggests going to the Taft Hotel, and Benjamin becomes visibly uncomfortable. The hotel staff recognizes him, causing Elaine to be suspicious. He tells Elaine that he had an affair with an older married woman with a husband and a son. Benjamin discovers that Elaine is someone he is comfortable with, and agrees to ask Elaine out again the next day. The next morning, Mrs. Robinson threatens to expose their relationship to Elaine if Benjamin ever sees Elaine again. Benjamin decides to tell Elaine everything. Elaine is furious and wants nothing to do with him and returns to Berkeley. After many months pass, Benjamin decides to marry Elaine.
Benjamin goes to Berkeley and moves into a rooming house near Elaine’s dormitory. Elaine is uneasy in his presence and tells him that she has started dating Carl Smith, a medical student. Elaine accuses him of taking advantage of her mother’s drunken state and raping her, refusing to believe that it was her mother who initiated the affair. Elaine eventually realizes that her mother was lying, and makes him promise that he won’t leave Berkeley until he has any definite plans.
When Benjamin proposes marriage, Elaine says she is concerned about graduating from college and her relationship with her parents if she continues to see him. Benjamin receives a telegram from Mrs. Robinson, telling him to get out of town immediately. Mr. Robinson arrives at the college and tells Benjamin 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. He forces his daughter to drop out of school and takes her away. Benjamin's father arrives the following day and wants to take him back home to see a psychiatrist. Benjamin returns to his hometown and sneaks into the Robinsons' home but encounters both Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, who calls the police and claims that a man has broken into their house. He escapes from the house and returns to Berkeley to find Elaine.
Benjamin lands in San Francisco. He finds Carl’s apartment address in the directory and heads over. There he finds a letter and learns that Carl will marry Elaine that very morning. Benjamin takes a plane to Santa Barbara and finds the church, where the ceremony is already taking place. He tries the doors to the church, all of which are locked, except for a side door that leads to the balcony. As he sees Elaine walking down the aisle, he interrupts the ceremony, slamming his hands on the railing and calling her name. He runs downstairs to the sanctuary. Using a cross as a weapon, he intimidates Carl, grabs Elaine, and they ride off on the nearest bus.
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.
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 poorly received sequel was written about forty years after the original book.
The concept of the screenplay of the 2005 movie Rumor Has It is that a woman learns that her mother and grandmother may be the inspiration for this novel.