Study Guide

The Graduate Summary

The Graduate Summary

Fear of the Future

When the story begins, Benjamin Braddock has just arrived back home in Southern California after graduating from college in the East. And even though he's smart, accomplished, and rich, guess what—he's unhappy. Imagine that. Like every Disney princess, he wants his future to be "different" in some vague way—not something his traditional parents' friends encourage him to embrace at his graduation party. But one of the guests at this party, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, has other designs on Benjamin beyond giving him career advice. She wants a ride home…

And sex.

Benjamin obliges with the ride home but ducks out when the come-ons start to get a little overt—like, when Mrs. Robinson gets naked and tries to trap Ben in the room with her. But, later on, after having some depressing experiences that leave him feeling totally disconnected from everyone, Ben decides to give Mrs. Robinson a call. They meet at a hotel and commence their affair. After some comic misunderstandings with the hotel staff, a guilt-ridden Benjamin almost bails. But after Mrs. Robinson suggests that he might be "inadequate," he plunges in, and they…get busy.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

But guess what again? Having an affair doesn't actually make him happy, either. It actually makes him feel kind of disgusted and empty. He continues to drift aimlessly in his parents' pool when he's not giving Mrs. Robinson "the time" (as they used to call it back then). But plot complications quickly ensue. Benjamin's parents have been nagging him to date Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine, and after trying to sabotage the date by taking her to a strip club, ends up hitting it off with her. Could this be…love?

It could be, but the budding relationship is soon crushed when Ben's virtually forced to confess the affair to Elaine when Mrs. Robinson threatens to do it herself. Naturally, Elaine doesn't want to see him anymore; she refuses to believe that her mother was the one who initiated the affair. She goes back to college at U.C. Berkeley.

Ben moves to Berkeley to try to convince her to marry him and seems to make some progress. But it turns out she's engaged to this other dude, Carl Smith, a typical blond frat-boy type. Mr. Robinson corners Ben and threatens to bring legal action against him if he continues to see Elaine. Elaine's yanked out of school by her parents and rushed into marry Carl. Yadda-yadda-ing through some plot points, Ben ends up crashing their wedding, fighting off the irate wedding guests, and absconding with the bride. They escape on a Santa Barbara city bus, at first elated with their romantic daring, and then perhaps a bit bewildered abut their uncertain future…

And that's where the movie ends.