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 California, on the summer of June 1962, Benjamin Braddock, going on from 20 to 21 years old, has recently graduated from a small Eastern college. He has won a scholarship to continue his education as an award of the Frank Helpingham and has returned home to Pasadena. By eight o’clock, most of the guests arrived because a party was celebrating his graduation at his parents' house. Everyone is thrilled about his numerous academic and athletic achievements. With having some 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.

At the insistence of the neglected wife of his father’s law partner, he drives Mrs. Robinson home, because her husband took the car, and she doesn’t know how to drive as far as she is concerned. Once at the house, he is coerced inside and has a drink in the Sun Porch. They talk for a time and Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him, which she denies. She invites him up to Elaine's room to see her portrait, and then after she tells Benjamin to bring her purse up, she comes back into the room naked. Her initial attempt at an affair is rebuffed and Benjamin quickly goes downstairs as he hears Mr. Robinson arriving home. Benjamin tells him that he only brought Mrs. Robinson home. Mr. Robinson doesn't suspect anything, and begins counseling Benjamin for a moment--even suggesting that Benjamin should give his daughter a call the next Saturday when she returns from Berkeley.

During the next week, on Benjamin’s 21st birthday, he walks around, thinking about his life. When he returns, his mother mentions that Elaine wouldn’t return on a Saturday because she has to stay up in Berkeley for summer school. Late in the afternoon, around the swimming pool in the backyard, Benjamin is presented with a diving suit from his parents, and shows all the people how he dives in a scuba demonstration. In the morning, still even more discouraged, 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.”

Part 2[edit]

The trip lasted just less than three weeks. It was late one night when Benjamin returned, and told his parents that he was fighting a fire somewhere and talk to a lot of different people. Two days later, after he got home from the trip, he decided to begin his affair with Mrs. Robinson. He goes to the Hotel Taft and wanders around the lobby, through the Main Ballroom to the Verandah Room, where he has a drink for a few minutes. Then he contacts Mrs. Robinson in the phone booth and organizes a tryst before she arrived exactly an hour later. Thus they begin to spend the night in their relationship from which she refers to his possible feelings of inadequacy.

In mid-September, as Benjamin is no longer eligible for the Frank Helpingham Award Scholarship, he spends the remainder of the day drifting around in the pool by day, purposefully neglecting to select a graduate school, and seeing Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. He discovers that they have nothing to talk about. However, after he pesters her one evening, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she is in a loveless marriage, because which this would have happened in the 1940s, she errantly became pregnant with her daughter, Elaine.

When Elaine comes down from Berkeley, just about 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 says 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 two clubs like the “Renaissance”, and the “Interior” where they dance, and then to a strip show. Finally after Elaine runs out of the strip club in tears, Benjamin has a change of heart, realizes how rude he was to her, and discovers that Elaine is someone he is comfortable with. A relationship ensues.

Before their date was over, they visited the Hotel Taft, where he always met with Mrs. Robinson. When everyone recognizes Benjamin, he explains to Elaine that he had an affair with an older married woman with a husband and a son, and doesn't tell her who the woman is, but agrees to ask her out again the next day. The next morning, Benjamin had just arrived upon the Robinsons’ house. When Mrs. Robinson was in the car as he drives down block, she threatens that she will expose their relationship to Elaine to destroy any chances with her if he ever sees her again. This threat which causes Benjamin to set himself out of the car, raced back to the house, and upstairs to Elaine’s room to get her. As it was, he had no time. But trying to stave off Mrs. Robinson, he rashly decides to tell Elaine everything that it wasn't just some woman with a husband and a son. Upsetting over hearing about his tryst with her mother after knowing the expressions that Mrs. Robinson is the older woman, Elaine furiously throws Benjamin out of the house, and wants nothing to do with him and returns to Berkeley. Benjamin 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 went to Berkeley. In town, he moved into a rooming house just several blocks from Elaine’s dormitory and sold his car. After a week, he was trying to talk to Elaine for several times, but stop 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. At one afternoon, twice during the next week, Elaine comes by the rooming house to talk to Benjamin about what he’s doing in town, and accuses him of taken advantage of her mother’s drunken state and raped her, refusing to believe that it was in fact Mrs. Robinson who has craftily seduced him and initiated the affair. With causing one too many disturbances, a number of tenants come upstairs and gathered behind the landlord in the doorway before a police officer arrived quickly to find out what happened, and questions Benjamin’s presence but took his word that there won’t be anymore trouble. When they left the hallway, Benjamin was ordered by the landlord to leave the rooming house in a week, and when it became clear for Elaine to believe his account and realizes that her mother was lying, she makes him promise that he won’t leave Berkeley till he has any definite plans.

It was several days later, Elaine comes back in the middle of the night. When Benjamin asks her about the marriage, she is also concerned with her future about graduating from college and her relationship with her parents if she continues to see him. In the middle of the morning, Benjamin received a telegram from Mrs. Robinson, because she found out that he was in Berkeley. She wrote that he has to get out of town immediately, or serious trouble will result. Moments later, as Benjamin and Elaine grow closer, they have many discussions over his proposal and Carl Smith’s where she has already accepted but nothing sure about it.

The following noon, Elaine came over 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, where Benjamin couldn’t find her around campus.

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.