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Read The Graduate (2002)

The Graduate (2002)

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3.4 of 5 Votes: 4
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0743456459 (ISBN13: 9780743456456)
washington square press

The Graduate (2002) - Plot & Excerpts

The Graduate is a fabulous book. Spoiler alert, I am going to tell you why. I think the first thing that comes to mind with this book is, Ben having the affair with Mrs. Robinson, but I think that the book is so much more than that and the affair is merely a vehicle through which we see this disillusioned East coast grad become the man he expected he would become when he graduated from college. First. We have Ben returning home from the East coast college. Several places in the book, they mention his education. East Coast, Ivy League. He not only went to college and graduated, but he got what was considered an excellent education, which would open doors for him in his future, he has excellent prospects because of his achievements. Top of his class, athletic, recipient of an education award which would send him anywhere he wanted to go to graduate school. Now he just has to pick a school; assuming of course he knows what he wants to do with his life, which with an excellent education, he is expected to know upon his return home. Second. He returns home and his parents and their friends, people he has known all his life, all congratulate him on his graduation from the excellent school. While they celebrate his achievements, he is up in his childhood bedroom trying to avoid, unsuccessfully, facing the party. Everyone he knows is happy for him, he has done great things, he feels pressured to answer their innocent inquiries into his future plans. He is experiencing the disillusionment which faces all of us when we reach different 'graduation points' in our lives-- we think that when we graduate from a stage in life that we will have the skills and wisdom we need to start the next. When we realize that we have graduated, yet, we feel completely lost, the failure of our own misguided expectations is powerfully overwhelming. I feel that Ben was at that point. When he expected to graduate from a excellent school, having been raised by good parents with values, I believe to return home and realize he is book smart but overwhelmed. So this leaves us with Ben, trying to be a man, living in his childhood home with his concerned and loving parents, who is coping badly with the failure of his own expectations of who he should have been when he graduated. Enter Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. Robinson obviously was a predator, she sought him out and realized his naive nature. He doesn't want to drive her home, he sees it as giving a lift, but as it occurs, the lift then the request to come in, he struggles with his values. He doesn't want to displease Mrs. Robinson. He has known her all his life, he doesn't think of her as a potential sex partner. Mrs. Robinson, uses her elder authority to manipulate him into complying. He intellectually understands that her conduct is not appropriate when he says "Mrs. Robinson. You are trying to seduce me." Immediately, she plays coy, uses his good manners to place the interpretation of her intentions back on him. He knows it is wrong, he is embarrassed, concerned about Mr. Robinson. Ultimately though, he does respond to her sexual offer.Note: He struggles with his values. With the aggressive, shameless offer of sex from Mrs. Robinson. He does go 'On the Road' in a failed attempt to find himself in a brillant but brief tie to Jack Kerouac's novel. He fails to find himself, before he leaves his parents house. He declares (his first adult decision of the book) that he is going on the road. His romantic idea of taking $10 and just the clothes on his back. His father, however, insists he take money with him, a check. Three weeks later, he returns. The entire book is filled with loving parental concern and his deflected, childish words and behavior. In trying to be a man, he refuses to talk to his parents about his problems. He struggles with the values ingrained in him and those he expected to have attained when he graduated. He struggles also with the role he plays at home, one of the child and the man he is in his parents eyes, which is peppered with expectations from his parents as well as his own. Third. While trying to escape from life through beer, tv, sleep and laying around the pool. He reverts into a more childlike version of himself. This rebellion against the pressures of life, fuels the affair. It is the second adult decision he makes. He calls his father's partner's wife and meets her at the Hotel Taft. He knows it is wrong. He does it anyway, a very immature move, considering the potential consequences. What happens though, is the adult decision, changes because he finds himself out of control. He doesn't want to hurt her feelings, but he needs her approval. When he asks why they just have sex, no conversation, it is plain that he wants more from his life. Sex for sex sake is not fulfilling to him. He has a very passive role in the affair, but ultimately he participated. I would think it would be because it was sex and he wasn't thinking in the long term. It was basic human nature, not intellectual. He begins to struggle to bring the intellectual and physical together.Note: The irony of the adult decision of participating in the affair is that he plays a passive, she is in control, role. He cannot be a man, in the sense of taking responsibility for himself and owning up to his actions. He has no plan, no objective and even lacks insight into the nature of what he is doing, who are going to be impacted by the affair. As soon as the affair began, he became passive, childlike, with her as the authority. Fourth. He rebels against Mrs. Robinson. She says don't date Elaine, he does anyway. Citing the pressure to go on a date because of his parents and her husband's encouragement. The date and then the confession that he was having an affair with her mother, are the moment that he stands up and embraces his values as to what a man is and does. He took responsiblity, partially, when he tells Elaine in front of her mother about the affair. Fifth. Declaring to his parents that he is marrying Elaine, before she knows and she doesn't like him anyhow, shows that he has arrived in manhood. He intellectually is struggling with getting what he wants right now and shedding his unplanned life with overcoming the hurdles of his confession. He goes, against his parent's wishes, sells his car, puts everything into seeking out and fixing his relationship with Elaine. During this time, we see that not only is she in college, that she is dating Carl and might marry him, but she plans. She is not impulsive, she is concerned with the future. She challenges him to come up with a plan, because without a plan, she believes he will ultimately fail. She is concerned about what his unplanned life will do to him, his safety, his happiness. Sixth. Elaine leaves school, ending her plan to graduate, because her family wish her to marry Carl. She abandons her own desires to gratify those of her family. Ben, faces her father, then his father both of whom are impacted by the now public affair he had with Mrs. Robinson. Ben is apologetic but declares that he is not crazy, he refuses to comply with his father's request to go with him and see a psychiatrist. Instead, he sneaks away. He searches, breaking into the Robinson's home, facing Mrs. Robinson, then running away when the police arrive. He goes back to Berkeley, finds a note on Carl's door, he had gone there to find Elaine, at that point willing to face Carl, then races to get to Santa Barbara to the wedding. He physically and intellectually confronts all the obstacles in his way to find Elaine. We see that Mrs. Robinson now has no power over him. He disrespects and disregards his father as well as physically forcing himself into the locked church. Elaine was complying with her family's wishes, but when he arrives inside the church, she breaks free of the plan that was in place for her and runs away with Ben. They get on the bus and the book ends there. Conclusion: There is a difference between being disillusioned and tired. While college is a time that we put so much pressure upon for education for education sake, in life our expectations for ourselves are the most difficult subject. It seems like the more you learn the less you know. I think that when this book was written, there was a deep yearning for the life of experience, by those who received structured academic educations. I know there have been many times in my life, where after I had graduated through it, I felt that everything I had learned hadn't made the expectations I had for myself any less daunting. Sometimes we learn from experience (Ben) other times, we just need to let go and follow our heart (Elaine).

Rarely do I prefer film versions of a book over the book itself, but there's no contest here. Love or hate The Graduate - the cult 1960s film - you gotta agree it has heart, or at least that almost intangible something that burns it into memory. To me that something has always been the very ending of the film, that final scene that adds a new dimension to otherwise lovely but okay film - those last moments on the bus with Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence in the background, with close-up on the faces of Ben and Elaine, so exhilarated from their on-the-spur-of-the-moment decision - but, as the camera lingers, we see eventual slow fading of the happy grins and uncertainty setting in, and the slightly confused awkward apprehensive glances at each other - now what? - the scene that is the most perfect conclusion of any film ever, and subtle enough for generations of college students to misinterpret it. Add to it amazing performances by Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, breathing life into what otherwise could have been wooden characters, and the rest of the lovely soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel - and the cult film is born.This heart, this humanity, this something is what Charles Webb's first novel The Graduate completely lacks, even though superficially it is not that different from the film based on it. The plot is the same - a bored and disillusioned affluent recent college graduate starts an affair with an older woman, then promptly falls in love with her dishrag-personality daughter, madly pursues the above mentioned daughter and breaks up her wedding to another affluent young man, all while unsure of his place in life in the 1960s. The scenes are the same as in the film, the dialogue very similar - but where the film soars, the book drowns like a brick.You see, separated from the humanity brought to it by the amazing Hoffman and Bancroft performances, the book feels desolately empty and meaningless. It's seems to mostly consist of awkward circular dialogues that go on forever, full of filler with nothing actually being said, with people droning on an on meaninglessly, constantly asking each other, 'What?' The attempts at communication are empty because no one actually has anything to say - a smart literary move, perhaps, if used sparingly and to the point, but the overabundance of the non-communication quickly becomes tiring, irritating and shallow. By overemphasizing emptiness around Benjamin, the book becomes quite empty itself. “Ben?” he said, opening his son’s door.“I’ll be down later,” Benjamin said.“Ben, the guests are all here,” his father said. “They’re all waiting.”“I said I’ll be down later.”Mr. Braddock closed the door behind him. “What is it,” he said.Benjamin shook his head and walked to the window.“What is it, Ben.”“Nothing.”“Then why don’t you come on down and see your guests.”Benjamin didn’t answer.“Ben?”“Dad,” he said, turning around, “I have some things on my mind right now.”“What things.”“Just some things.”“Well can’t you tell me what they are?”“No.”Nobody in this book listens to anyone else, especially Benjamin Braddock, the protagonist, a selfish privileged young college graduate who, after a life handed to him on the silver platter, has a case of ennui and is lucky enough to have parents rich enough to allow him to parasitically waste his life in the pathetic self-pity while openly despising everyone around him because, of course, everyone is inferior to his special snowflakeness. He refuses to understand anyone, refuses to have meaningful communication with anyone, places himself into the center of the Benjamin-centric universe, judges everyone except himself, sees no consequences for his actions, and, after deciding - arbitrarily, it seems - to fall in love, basically badgers the most vapid love interest ever to pay attention to him. He is ridiculous in his pompous quasi-disillusioned snobbery, and very quickly progresses from annoying to simply just an ass.The movie treats this scene as suffocated cry of a lonely soul. In the book, Ben Braddock is a bored and rude self-absorbed twit.Throughout the story he sounds not like a talented almost-prodigy college graduate. No, he sounds like a perpetually pissed-off snappy overpampered fifteen-year-old teenager, angry for the sake of anger. Where film-Benjamin is confused and lost and humanly vulnerable, book-Benjamin is simply irritatingly full of himself. Benjamin stood. “Now look!” he said, waving his arm through the air. “I have been a goddamn—a goddamn ivy-covered status symbol around here for four years. And I think I’m entitled to—” Entitled is precisely the word to describe Benjamin. Exactly right.Written by a very young (24 years old!) privileged man from affluent Pasadena about a very young privileged man from affluent Pasadena, this book to me seems a perfect testament to the well-known fact that if you are a privileged young man, you can do whatever the hell you want and mope around for a while while being fashionably disillusioned because you know at the end of it your convenient life will be handed back to you on the same silver platter. The book is devoid of any kind of internal monologue of characters, of any hints at their mental state, their motivations - nothing except for what's on the surface and what gets across in the empty endless dialogue. I can see how that could have been conceived as a literary device, but too much of it makes the book too shallow and empty and meaningless. At least in the film Hoffman and Bancroft's acting brought life to the characters, filling in what was unsaid with body language and facial expressions, thus creating something behind the actions of the characters. Devoid of this, the book does not provide an alternative - it simply provides nothing.The expressions of the bus people at the end were probably exactly what my expression was by the end of this book.And the ending - MY film ending that brings in subtlety and subverts so much of the film - no, of course it was not here. It would have been silly to expect subtlety from such a dull book. It ends just as flatly as it began, woodenly and purposelessly. "Elaine was still trying to catch her breath. She turned her face to look at him. For several moments she sat looking at him, then she reached over and took his hand.“Benjamin?” she said.“What.”The bus began to move."So if you happened to find an old copy of the book The Graduate and, feeling nostalgic for college years, want to relive the experience, I recommend the following: get some nice wine, rent the film The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, and get comfy on the couch using the book The Graduate as a coaster for your wine glass. Lovely evening guaranteed. Half a star.

What do You think about The Graduate (2002)?

I've seen The Graduate approximately 327 times, and the New Yorker, as well as my sister, calls it "The biggest success in the history of movies," so finally reading this book and picturing anything besides those actors, those shots, and, of course, that music, was always going to be impossible. But it seemed like a good beach read this weekend, and movie tie-in covers on books from the '60s aren't quite as hideous as our tie-in covers now, so I read it in an afternoon, and it's a fast, fun enough read, but bringing the baggage of that movie along made for a sometimes baffling experience. For one thing, I'd always heard that the book's titular "graduate" was a blonde, beach-bum type kid. But I found no evidence of this in the text. I think that rumor was started because of the possible Robert Redford casting for the film, before they brought in wonderfully surly homunculus Hoffman. It does feel like an "other" in that role, in both mediums though. But the biggest changes plot-wise are bizarre interludes where Benjamin goes "up North" to "fight fires" and, in an extra gross Britpop maneuver sets out to live like... "common people." He also has drunken sex with many prostitutes, which certainly changes the dynamic of his first hotel encounter with Mrs. Robinson. Complicates it a bit, at least, since now his coat-hanger, smoky-kiss awkwardness can't be shrugged off as him being a virgin. But Ben's always been much odder than all that. Oh, and no Marathon Man running in the book. Instead, Ben goes for a lot of "walks." Like walks for a couple months. Like depressed Forrest Gump transatlantic-length walks. All these things are told rather than shown (usually to his bemused parents), so those sections don't really amount to anything except delay the initial affair with Mrs. Robinson, and to illustrate his restlessness and boredom, I suppose, although I'd argue that it's not necessary to also bore the reader to make this point.Oh, also, when he gets to Berkeley, he doesn't just toe the line of being what we'd call a "stalker" these days. He's totally a proud graduate of Stalker Academy! He spends a loooooooong time creeping around Elaine's life before he finally follows her to the zoo to kick the third act into gear. Curiously, in the book, the zoo trip is real rainy, but any rainy scenes in the movie are sunny in the book. It makes more sense for the zoo sequence to be rainy, though, so extra points to the book here, but Mrs. Robinson looked damn hot running to his car in the rain in the movie, so what are you gonna do.There's also a small detail that the movie tweaked when it comes to the wedding ceremony climax, when he crashes the nuptials to steal away the bride. I don't want to spoil it if you haven't read both the book and seen the movie, because then I'd be like that motherfucker on Facebook last night who told everyone Jon Snow died, but it has something to do with the fact that in the book he gets to her before she ties the knot. And in the movie he's too late, but they take off anyway. Which is why the movie is much more fun. Oops, spoiled it. Sorry, but this ain't Game of Thorns. This book's been out since '63 and the movie since '67. We've had a lot of time to get this done.What else? Oh, yeah, it's positively Mamet-esque in its repetition of dialogue. Holy crap this kid repeats himself. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes it's endless. Also, lots of detailed descriptions of opening doors and walking to the other sides of rooms. And sometimes the author steps on his punchlines, too, like great zingers in the book ("We may as well just have been shaking hands." "Well, that doesn't say much about my wife, does it?") get odd extra sentences that fall flat ("...I mean, maybe my wife does need to learn a few more tricks in the sack." What?), which, again, might be the result of being too familiar with the film, or the skill of Buck Henry's adaptation to recognize these improvements, but I don't have a time machine to go back and read this when I was supposed to, so I'll never know. But the tightening of the script seems to help at every turn, and it may have been much more comfortable as a novella-sized read. One final thing I almost forgot - there's some crazy anti-intellectual stuff throughout. This Benjamin is much louder (hundreds of exclamation points when this Ben "pouts"), and he's always railing about how much he hates school and books and "thinkers," but weirdly enough, Berkeley in particular is a joke to him, too, and he scoffs that he could get a job there in a heartbeat, that he has impressive offers at "Eastern" schools, "real schools." So, yeah, he's more of an asshole here, and maybe people just assumed he was a blond-haired beach bum because of those rants, but I think it's more that he's dim, essentially a true dumb ass, but still trying to find love and/or reason. But that's his charm, right? It just lands better when he's a brooding, little squirrel-y dude, rather than a jockish surfer, I think. But we'll never know what he looked like because, mercifully, Charles Webb spends zero time on character descriptions. So how Ben seduced anyone will have to remain one of the great mysteries for our time. But either way, it's clear Ben didn't deserve Mrs. Robinson, let alone Elaine. And, in retrospect, Mrs. Robinson was too good for them all.
—David Keaton

Good to know! I so love the film. FYI I learned in screenwriting class that Charles Webb only received about $20,000 for the rights. In other words, he got totally screwed. So you should feel good about buying the book. :)

I got this book, appropriately enough, as a college graduation/birthday gift. I've never seen the movie except for the infamous ending and (just now) the trailer, which actually gives away the entire plot (boy graduates from college, is seduced by an older woman, and then falls in love with older woman's daughter). But despite the little I've seen of the film, the novel has none of the quirky humor and appeal the film seems to have.The plot itself is a "What is going on?" scenario. Bypassing the whole "why would Mrs. Robinson seduce a 21-year-old," which is the first half of the novel, I had most of my problems with the second half. Benjamin "falls in love" with Elaine after only one awful date, decides to marry her despite not having seen her for months, and moves to Berkeley to be near her--even though she despises him. Elaine falls in love with Ben, despite having believed just moments before that he had raped her mother. What is going on?I also found none of the characters appealing or redeeming. Benjamin is a conflicted, college graduate yuppie who decides to give up on his promising future and live off his parents wealth. He is one of the most apathetic, unmotivated, and moody characters I have ever read--and not in a charming way. Elaine comes off as an airhead. And Mrs. Robinson, who is the most interesting character, is too elusive. In the end, you don't understand the characters any better than when you started.Despite my major conflicts with the novel, I can understand Ben's "I don't know what to do, but I don't don't want to do that" feeling that comes with a diploma. Although Webb went a little overboard, I think he captured that essence pretty well. But the story was short and intriguing enough for me to finish it in a day. So in the end, it was pretty alright. But that's about it.

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