Graduating college provided no answers for Benjamin Braddock; it only furthered his frustration and angst with the world. Upon returning home, his disdain leads him into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner. However, no sooner does Braddock score with her than he is off courting her daughter, Elaine, in some perverse rendition of the Oedipal complex. Brick provides a strong narration of the text and executes believable voices for his male and female characters, as usual. His delivery of Benjamin is distinct enough to not seem derivative of Dustin Hoffman's performance in the 1967 film adaptation. However, Brick often portrays Benjamin as a whiney and petulant dolt much more than Webb's spare and sly 1963 novel suggests, which undermines the character's narrative. A Washington Square Press paperback. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Graduateby Charles Webb
When Benjamin Braddock graduates from a small Eastern college and moves home to his parents' house, everyone wants to know what he's going to do with his life. Embittered by the emptiness of his college education and indifferent to his grim prospects -- grad school? a career in plastics? -- Benjamin falls haplessly into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, the relentlessly seductive wife of his father's business partner. It's only when beautiful coed Elaine Robinson comes home to visit her parents that Benjamin, now smitten, thinks he might have found some kind of direction in his life. Unfortuately for Benjamin, Mrs. Robinson plays the role of protective mother as well as she does the one of mistress. A wondrously fierce and absurd battle of wills ensues, with love and idealism triumphing over the forces of corruption and conformity.
Brilliant...sardonic, ludicrously funny.
A highly gifted and accomplished writer.
His novel makes you want to laugh and it makes you want to cry.
Chicago Tribune A highly gifted and accomplished writer.
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) His novel makes you want to laugh and it makes you want to cry.
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Read an Excerpt
Benjamin Braddock graduated from a small Eastern college on a day in June. Then he flew home. The following evening a party was given for him by his parents. By eight o'clock most of the guests had arrived but Benjamin had not yet come down from his room. His father called up from the foot of the stairs but there was no answer. Finally he hurried up the stairs and to the end of the hall.
"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."
"Then why don't you come on down and see your guests."
Benjamin didn't answer.
"Dad," he said, turning around, "I have some things on my mind right now."
"Just some things."
"Well can't you tell me what they are?"
Mr. Braddock continued frowning at his son a few more moments, glanced at his watch, then looked back at Benjamin. "Ben, these are our friends down there," he said. "My friends. Your mother's friends. You owe them a little courtesy."
"Tell them I have to be alone right now."
"Mr. Robinson's out in the garage looking at your new sports car. Now go on down and give him a ride in it."
Benjamin reached into his pocket for a pair of shiny keys on a small chain. "Here," he said.
"Give him the keys. Let him drive it."
"But he wants to see you."
"Dad, I don't want to see him right now," Benjamin said. "I don't want to see the Robinsons, I don't want to see the Pearsons, I don't want to see the...the Terhunes."
"Ben, Mr. Robinson and I have been practicing law together in this town for seventeen years. He's the best friend I have."
"I realize that."
"He has a client over in Los Angeles that he's put off seeing so he could be here and welcome you home from college."
"Do you appreciate that?"
"I'd appreciate it if I could be alone!"
His father shook his head. "I don't know what's got into you," he said, "but whatever it is I want you to snap out of it and march right on down there."
Suddenly the door opened and Benjamin's mother stepped into the room. "Aren't you ready yet?" she said.
"We'll be right down," his father said.
"Well what's wrong," she said, closing the door behind her.
"I am trying to think!"
"Come on, Ben," his father said. He took his arm and began leading him toward the door.
"Goddammit will you leave me alone!" Benjamin said. He pulled away and stood staring at him.
"Ben?" Mr. Braddock said quietly, staring back at him, "don't you ever swear at your mother or me again."
Benjamin shook his head. Then he walked between them and to the door. "I'm going for a walk," he said. He stepped out into the hall and closed the door behind him.
He hurried to the head of the stairs and down but just as he had gotten to the front door and was about to turn the knob Mr. Terhune appeared out of the living room.
"Ben?" he said. "I want to shake your hand."
Benjamin shook it.
"Goddammit I'm proud of you," Mr. Terhune said, still holding his hand.
Benjamin nodded. "Thank you," he said. "Now if you'll excuse me I'm going for a walk. I'll be back later."
Mrs. Pearson appeared at the end of the hall. "Oh Benjamin," she said, smiling at him. She hurried to where he was standing and reached up to pull his head down and kiss him. "Benjamin?" she said. "I'm just speechless."
"Golly you did a fine job back there."
"I'm sorry to seem rude," Benjamin said, "but I'm trying to go on a walk right now."
Mr. Robinson appeared at the end of the hall with a drink in his hand. He began grinning when he saw Benjamin and walked into the group of people surrounding him to shake his hand. "Ben, how in hell are you," he said. "You look swell."
"Say, that's something out in the garage. That little Italian job your old man gave you for graduation?"
"Oh how exciting," Mrs. Pearson said.
"Let's go for a spin," Mr. Robinson said.
Benjamin reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys. "Can you work a foreign gearshift?" he said, holding them out.
"Do you know how to operate a foreign gearshift."
"Well sure," Mr. Robinson said. "But I thought you'd take me for a little spin yourself."
"I can't right now," Benjamin said. "Excuse me." He reached for the doorknob and turned it, then pulled open the door. Just as he was about to step outside Mr. and Mrs. Carlson walked up onto the front porch.
"Well here he is himself," Mrs. Carlson said. She wrapped her arms around Benjamin and hugged him. "Ben?" she said, patting one of his shoulders, "I hope you won't be embarrassed if I tell you I'm just awfully proud to know you."
"I won't," Benjamin said. "But I have some things on my mind at the moment and I'm "
"Here's something for you," Mr. Carlson said. He handed Benjamin a bottle wrapped with a red ribbon. "I hope they taught you to hold your liquor back there." He threw his arm around Benjamin's shoulder and swept him back inside the house.
Benjamin ducked under his arm and set the bottle of liquor beside the door. "Look," he said. "Could you please let me go for my walk!"
"I'm sorry not to be more sociable," Benjamin said. "I appreciate everybody coming over but "
"Now Ben," Mrs. Carlson said as her husband removed her coat, "I want you to tell me all about this prize you won. It was for teaching, wasn't it?"
Benjamin grabbed the doorknob but before he could turn it his father appeared beside him and put his arm around him. "Let's get you fixed up with a drink," he said.
"Come on, Ben," his father said quietly. "You're making kind of a scene here."
"Then let me out!"
"Here we go," Mr. Braddock said. He began leading him away from the door.
"All right!" Benjamin said. He walked ahead of his father and into the living room, shaking his head.
"Well Benjamin," a woman said.
"Aren't you just thrilled to death?"
He walked on through the room, nodding at several more guests, and into the dining room where there was a tray of bottles on the dining-room table and a bucket of ice and some glasses. He selected one of the largest and poured it full of bourbon. Then he took several swallows, closed his eyes a moment and took several more. He refilled the glass to the top and turned around to see his mother standing in front of him.
"What's that," she said, frowning at the glass in his hand.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe it's a drink."
His mother turned her frown up to his face. "Ben, what's the trouble," she said.
"The trouble is I'm trying to get out of this house!"
"But what's on your mind."
"Different things, Mother."
"Well, can't you worry about them another time?"
Mrs. Braddock reached for his drink. "Here," she said, taking it. "Come out to the kitchen for a minute."
Benjamin shook his head but followed her through the swinging door and into the kitchen. Mrs. Braddock walked to the sink and poured out most of the drink, then filled the glass with water. "Can't you tell me what you're worried about?" she said, drying off the glass with a dish towel beside the sink.
"Mother, I'm worried about different things. I'm a little worried about my future."
"About what you're going to do?"
She handed him back the glass. "Well you still plan to teach don't you," she said.
"You don't?" she said. "Well what about your award."
"I'm not taking it."
"Well Ben," she said, "that doesn't sound very wise, to pass up something you've spent four years working for."
Mr. Terhune pushed into the kitchen carrying his drink. "I thought I saw you duck in here," he said. "Now let's have the lowdown on that prize of yours."
"I'm not "
"Tell him about it, Ben," his mother said.
"It's called the Frank Halpingham Education Award," Benjamin said. "It's given by the college. It puts me through two years of graduate school if I decide to go into teaching."
"Well now why did they pick you," Mr. Terhune said.
Benjamin didn't answer.
"He did some practice teaching back there," his mother said. "He's been an assistant teacher for two years. Last term they let him take a junior seminar in American History."
Mr. Terhune sipped at his drink. "Well, have you got in any graduate schools yet?" he said.
"He's in Harvard and Yale," his mother said. "And what's that other one?"
Mr. Terhune sipped at his drink again. "It sounds like you've got things pretty well sewed up," he said.
Benjamin turned and walked quickly across the room to the back door. He opened it and walked out and to the edge of the swimming pool in the back yard. He stood staring down at the blue light rising up through the water for several moments before hearing the door open and bang shut behind him and someone walk across to where he was standing.
"Ben?" Mrs. McQuire said. "I think your yearbook is just unbelievable."
"Was there anyone who got his picture in there more times than you did?"
"Abe Frankel did."
Mrs. McQuire shook her head. "What a fantastic record you made for yourself."
"Ben?" Mr. Calendar came out beside the pool and shook Benjamin's hand. "Congratulations to you," he said.
"Have you seen Ben's yearbook?" Mrs. McQuire said.
"Let's see if I can remember all the different things," she said. "Ben, you tell me if I miss any." She cleared her throat and counted them off on her fingers as she talked. "Captain of the cross-country team. Head of the debating club. First in his class."
"I wasn't first."
"I tied Abe Frankel for first."
"Oh," she said. "Now let's see what else. One of the editors of the school newspaper. Student teacher. I'm running out of fingers. Social chairman of his house. And that wonderful teaching award."
"Could I ask you a question," Benjamin said, turning suddenly toward her.
"Why are you so impressed with all those things."
"All the things you did?"
"Excuse me," Mr. Calendar said, holding up his glass. "I think I'll find a refill." He turned around and walked back into the house.
"Could you tell me that, Mrs. McQuire?"
She was frowning down into the bright blue water beside them. "Well," she said, "aren't you awfully proud of yourself? Of all those things?"
"What?" she said, looking up. "You're not?"
"I want to know why you're so impressed, Mrs. McQuire."
"Well," she said, shaking her head. "I'm afraid I'm afraid I don't quite see what you're driving at."
"You don't know what I'm talking about, do you."
"Well not exactly. No."
"Then why do you why do you " He shook his head. "Excuse me," he said. He turned around and walked back toward the house.
"Ben?" she called after him. "I'm afraid I haven't been much help, but if it makes any difference I just want to say I'm thrilled to pieces by all your wonderful achievements and I couldn't be prouder if you were my own son."
Benjamin opened the door leading into the living room. He walked through the room keeping his eyes ahead of him on the carpet until Mrs. Calendar took his elbow.
"Ben?" she said. "I just think it's too terrific for words."
He walked past her and into the hall. Just as he got to the foot of the stairs his father came up behind him.
"Leave me alone."
"Ben, for God's sake what is it."
"I don't know what it is."
"Come here," Mr. Braddock said. He took his arm and led him down the hall and into a bedroom. "Son?" he said, closing the door and locking it. "Now what is it."
"I don't know."
"Well something seems pretty wrong."
"I don't know!" Benjamin said. "But everything everything is grotesque all of a sudden."
"Those people in there are grotesque. You're grotesque."
"I'm grotesque. This house is grotesque. It's just this feeling I have all of a sudden. And I don't know why!"
"Ben, it's because you're all tied up in knots."
Benjamin shook his head.
"Now I want you to relax."
"I can't seem to."
"Ben, you've just had four of the most strenuous years of your life back there."
"They were nothing," Benjamin said.
"The whole four years," he said, looking up at his father. "They were nothing. All the things I did are nothing. All the distinctions. The things I learned. All of a sudden none of it seems to be worth anything to me."
His father was frowning. "Why do you say that."
"I don't know," Benjamin said. He walked across the room to the door. "But I've got to be alone. I've got to think until I know what's been happening to me."
"Dad, I've got to figure this thing out before I go crazy," he said, unlocking the door. "I'm not just joking around either." He stepped back out into the hall.
"Ben?" Mr. Robinson said, holding out his hand. "I've got a client waiting for me over in Los Angeles."
Benjamin nodded and shook his hand.
"Real proud of you boy," Mr. Robinson said.
Benjamin waited till he had gone out the door, then turned around and walked upstairs and into his room. He closed the door behind him and sat down at his desk. For a long time he sat looking down at the rug, then he got up and walked to the window. He was staring out at a light over the street when the door opened and Mrs. Robinson stepped inside, carrying a drink and her purse.
"Oh," she said. "I guess this isn't the bathroom is it."
"It's down the hall," Benjamin said.
She nodded but instead of leaving the room stood in the doorway looking at him.
"It's right at the end of the hall," Benjamin said.
Mrs. Robinson was wearing a shiny green dress cut very low across her chest, and over one of her breasts was a large gold pin.
"Don't I get to kiss the graduate?" she said.
She smiled at him.
"Mrs. Robinson," Benjamin said, shaking his head. "I'm kind of distraught at the moment. Now I'm sorry to be rude but I have some things on my mind."
She walked across the room to where he was standing and kissed one of his cheeks.
"It's good to see you," Benjamin said. "The bathroom's at the end of the hall."
Mrs. Robinson stood looking at him a moment longer, then turned around and walked to his bed. She seated herself on the edge of it and sipped at her drink. "How are you," she said.
"Look," Benjamin said. "I'm sorry not to be more congenial but I'm trying to think."
Mrs. Robinson had set her glass down on the rug. She reached into her purse for a package of cigarettes and held it out to Benjamin.
She took one for herself.
"Is there an ash tray in here?"
"Oh," she said, "I forgot. The track star doesn't smoke." She blew out her match and set it down on the bedspread.
Benjamin walked to his desk for a wastebasket and carried it to the bed. He picked up the match and dropped it in.
He walked back to the window.
"What are you upset about," she said.
"Some personal things."
"Don't you want to talk about them?"
"Well they wouldn't be of much interest to you, Mrs. Robinson."
She nodded and sat quietly on the bed smoking her cigarette and dropping ashes into the wastebasket beside her.
"Girl trouble?" she said.
"Do you have girl trouble?"
"Look," Benjamin said. "Now I'm sorry to be this way but I can't help it. I'm just sort of disturbed about things."
"In general," she said.
"That's right," Benjamin said. "So please." He shook his head and looked back out through the glass of the window.
Mrs. Robinson picked up her drink to take a swallow from it, then set it down and sat quietly until she was finished with her cigarette.
"Shall I put this out in the wastebasket?"
Mrs. Robinson ground it out on the inside of the wastebasket, then sat back up and folded her hands in her lap. It was quiet for several moments.
"The bathroom's at the end of the hall," Benjamin said.
She didn't move from the bed but sat watching him until finally Benjamin turned around and walked to the door. "Excuse me," he said. "I think I'll go on a walk."
"Come here a minute."
"Look I'm sorry to be rude, Mrs. Robinson. But I'm..."
She held out her hands. "Just for a minute," she said.
Benjamin shook his head and walked back to the bed. She took both his hands in hers and looked up into his face for several moments.
"What do you want," he said.
"Will you take me home?"
"My husband took the car. Will you drive me home?"
Benjamin reached into one of his pockets for the keys. "Here," he said. "You take the car."
"Borrow the car. I'll come and get it tomorrow."
"Don't you want to take me home?" she said, raising her eyebrows.
"I want to be alone, Mrs. Robinson. Now do you know how to work a foreign shift?"
She shook her head.
Benjamin waited a few moments, then returned the keys to his pocket. "Let's go," he said.
Mr. Braddock was standing in the front doorway saying goodbye to the Terhunes. "Mrs. Robinson needs a ride home," Benjamin said. "I'll be right back."
"Wonderful party," Mrs. Robinson said. She took her coat from a closet beside the front door, put it on and followed Benjamin back through the house and out to the garage. He got into the car and started the engine and she got in beside him.
"What kind of car is this," she said.
"I don't know."
He backed out the driveway and they drove without speaking the several miles between the Braddocks' home and the Robinsons'. Benjamin stopped by the curb in front of her house. Mrs. Robinson reached up to push some hair away from her forehead and turned in her seat to smile at him.
"Thank you," she said.
She didn't move from her seat. Finally Benjamin turned off the engine, got out and walked around to open the door for her.
"Thank you," she said, getting out.
"Will you come in, please?"
"I want you to come in till I get the lights on."
"Because I don't feel safe until I get the lights on."
Benjamin frowned at her, then followed her up a flagstone walk to the front porch. She found a key in her purse. When the door was opened she reached up to the wall just inside and turned on a hall light.
"Would you mind walking ahead of me to the sun porch?" she said.
"Can't you see now?"
"I feel funny about coming into a dark house," she said.
"But it's light in there now."
Benjamin waited a moment but then walked ahead of her down the hall and toward the rear of the house.
"To your left," she said.
Benjamin walked to his left and down three steps leading to the sun porch. Mrs. Robinson came in behind him and turned on a lamp beside a long couch against one of the walls.
"Thank you," she said.
"What do you drink," she said, "bourbon?"
Benjamin shook his head. "Look," he said. "I drove you home. I was glad to do it. But for God's sake I have some things on my mind. Can you understand that?"
"All right then."
"What do you drink," she said.
"Benjamin, I'm sorry to be this way," she said. "But I don't want to be alone in this house."
"Please wait till my husband gets home."
"Lock the doors," Benjamin said. "I'll wait till you have all the doors locked."
"I want you to sit down till Mr. Robinson comes back."
"But I want to be alone!" Benjamin said.
"Well I know you do," she said. "But I don't."
"Are you afraid to be alone in your own house?"
"Can't you just lock the doors?"
Mrs. Robinson nodded at a chair behind him.
"When's he coming back," Benjamin said.
"I don't know."
Benjamin sat down in the chair. "I'll sit here till he gets back," he said. "Then I'll go. Good night."
"Don't you want some company?"
Mrs. Robinson turned and walked up the three stairs leading from the porch. Benjamin folded his hands in his lap and looked at his reflection in one of the large panels of glass enclosing the room. Several moments later music began playing in another part of the house. He turned and frowned at the doorway. Then Mrs. Robinson walked back into the room carrying two drinks.
"Look. I said I didn't want any."
She handed it to him, then went to the side of the room and pulled a cord. Two large curtains slid closed across the windows. Benjamin shook his head and looked at the drink. Mrs. Robinson seated herself on a couch beside his chair. Then it was quiet.
"Are you always this much afraid of being alone?"
"Well why can't you just lock the doors and go to bed."
"I'm very neurotic," she said.
Benjamin frowned at her a few moments, then tasted his drink and set it down on the floor.
"May I ask you a question?" Mrs. Robinson said.
"What do you think of me."
"What do you think of me."
He shook his head.
"You've known me nearly all your life," she said. "Haven't you formed any "
"Look. This is kind of a strange conversation. Now I told my father I'd be right back."
"Don't you have any opinions at all?"
"No," he said. He glanced at his watch. "Look, I'm sure Mr. Robinson will be here any minute. So please lock your doors and let me go."
"Did you know I was an alcoholic?"
Benjamin shook his head. "Mrs. Robinson," he said, "I don't want to talk about this."
"Did you know that?"
"You never suspected?"
"Mrs. Robinson, this is none of my business," Benjamin said, rising from the chair. "Now excuse me because I've got to go."
"You never suspected I was an alcoholic."
"Goodbye, Mrs. Robinson."
"Sit down," she said.
"I'm leaving now."
She stood and walked to where he was standing to put one of her hands on his shoulder. "Sit down," she said.
"I'm leaving, Mrs. Robinson."
"Because I want to be alone."
"My husband will probably be back quite late," she said.
Benjamin frowned at her.
"Mr. Robinson probably won't be here for several hours."
Benjamin took a step backward. "Oh my God," he said.
"Oh no, Mrs. Robinson. Oh no."
Benjamin looked at her a few moments longer, then turned around and walked to one of the curtains. "Mrs. Robinson," he said, "you didn't I mean you didn't expect..."
"I mean you you didn't really think I would do something like that."
"What do you think!" he said.
"Well I don't know."
"Come on, Mrs. Robinson."
"For God's sake, Mrs. Robinson. Here we are. You've got me in your house. You put on music. You give me a drink. We've both been drinking already. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your husband won't be home for hours."
"Mrs. Robinson," he said, turning around, "you are trying to seduce me."
She frowned at him.
She seated herself again on the couch.
"Why no," she said, smiling. "I hadn't thought of it. I feel rather flattered that you..."
Suddenly Benjamin put his hands up over his face. "Mrs. Robinson?" he said. "Will you forgive me?"
"Will you forgive me for what I just said?"
"It's all right."
"It's not all right! That's the worst thing I've ever said! To anyone!"
"Please forgive me. Because I like you. I don't think of you that way. But I'm mixed up!"
"All right," she said. "Now finish your drink."
Benjamin sat back down in his chair and lifted his drink up from the floor. "Mrs. Robinson, it makes me sick that I said that to you."
"I forgive you," she said.
"Can you? Can you ever forget that I said that?"
"We'll forget it right now," she said. "Finish your drink."
"What is wrong with me," Benjamin said. He took several large swallows from his drink and set it back on the floor.
"What, Mrs. Robinson."
She cleared her throat. "Have you ever seen Elaine's portrait?"
Benjamin shook his head. "No."
"We had it done last Christmas. Would you like to see it?"
Benjamin nodded. "Very much."
"It's upstairs," she said, standing.
Benjamin followed her back to the front of the house and then up the thickly carpeted stairs to the second story. Mrs. Robinson walked ahead of him along a hall and turned into a room. A moment later dim yellow light spread out the doorway and into the hall. Benjamin walked into the room.
The portrait was hanging by itself on one of the walls and the light was coming from a small tubular lamp fixed at the top of the heavy gold frame. Benjamin looked at it, then nodded. "She's a very good-looking girl," he said.
Mrs. Robinson seated herself on the edge of a single bed in a corner of the room.
Benjamin folded his arms across his chest and stepped up closer to the portrait to study some of the detail of the face. "I didn't remember her as having brown eyes," he said. He stepped back again and tilted his head slightly to the side. "She's really she's really a beautiful girl."
She didn't answer. Benjamin turned to smile at her.
"Come here," she said quietly.
"Will you come over here a minute?"
"Sure," Benjamin said. He walked over to the bed. Mrs. Robinson reached up to put one of her hands on his sleeve. Then she stood slowly until she was facing him.
"Benjamin?" she said.
She turned around. "Will you unzip my dress?"
Benjamin unfolded his arms suddenly and took a step backward.
"I think I'll go to bed," she said.
"Oh," Benjamin said. "Well. Good night." He walked to the door.
"Won't you unzip the dress?"
"I'd rather not, Mrs. Robinson."
She turned around again and frowned at him. "Do you still think I'm trying to..."
"No I don't. But I just feel a little funny."
"You still think I'm trying to seduce you."
"I don't," Benjamin said. "But I think I'd better get downstairs now."
"Benjamin," she said, smiling, "you've known me all your life."
"I know that. I know that. But I'm "
"Come on," she said, turning her back to him. "It's hard for me to reach."
Benjamin waited a moment, then walked back to her. He reached for the zipper and pulled it down along her back. The dress split open.
"Right," Benjamin said. He walked back to the doorway.
"What are you so scared of," she said, smiling at him again.
"I'm not scared, Mrs. Robinson."
"Then why do you keep running away."
"Because you're going to bed," he said. "I don't think I should be up here."
"Haven't you ever seen anybody in a slip before?" she said, letting the dress fall down around her and onto the floor.
"Yes I have," Benjamin said, glancing away from her and at the portrait of Elaine. "But I just "
"You still think I'm trying to seduce you, don't you."
"No I do not!" He threw his hands down to his sides. "Now I told you I feel terrible about saying that. But I don't feel right up here."
"Why not," she said.
"Why do you think, Mrs. Robinson."
"Well I don't know," she said. "We're pretty good friends I think. I don't see why you should be embarrassed to see me in a slip."
"Look," Benjamin said, pointing in back of him out the door. "What if what if Mr. Robinson walked in right now."
"What if he did," she said.
"Well it would look pretty funny, wouldn't it."
"Don't you think he trusts us together?"
"Of course he does. But he might get the wrong idea. Anyone might."
"I don't see why," she said. "I'm twice as old as you are. How could anyone think "
"But they would! Don't you see?"
"Benjamin," she said, "I'm not trying to seduce you. I wish you'd "
"I know that. But please, Mrs. Robinson. This is difficult for me."
"Why is it," she said.
"Because I am confused about things. I can't tell what I'm imagining. I can't tell what's real. I can't "
"Would you like me to seduce you?"
"Is that what you're trying to tell me?"
"I'm going home now. I apologize for what I said. I hope you can forget it. But I'm going home right now." He turned around and walked to the stairs and started down.
"Benjamin?" she called after him.
"Will you bring up my purse before you go?"
Benjamin shook his head.
"Please?" she said.
"I have to go now. I'm sorry."
Mrs. Robinson walked out to the railing holding her green dress across the front of her slip and looked down at Benjamin standing at the foot of the stairs. "I really don't want to put this on again," she said. "Won't you bring it up?"
"Where is it."
"On the sun porch."
Benjamin hurried through the hall and found the purse beside the couch on the sun porch. He returned with it to the foot of the stairs. "Mrs. Robinson?"
"I'm in the bathroom," she called from upstairs.
"Well here's the purse."
"Could you bring it up?"
"Well I'll hand it to you. Come to the railing and I'll hand it up."
"Benjamin?" she called. "I'm getting pretty tired of this."
"I am getting pretty tired of all this suspicion. Now if you won't do me a simple favor I don't know what."
Benjamin waited a moment, then carried the purse up to the top of the stairs.
"I'm putting it on the top step," he said.
"For God's sake, Benjamin, will you stop acting this way and bring me the purse?"
He frowned down the hallway. A line of bright light was coming from under the bathroom door. Finally he walked slowly down the hall toward it. "Mrs. Robinson?"
"Did you bring it up?"
"I did," he said. "I'm putting it here by the door."
"Won't you bring it in to me?"
"I'd rather not."
"All right," she said from the other side of the door. "Put it across the hall."
"Across the hall," she said. "In the room where we were."
"Oh," Benjamin said. "Right." He walked quickly back into the room where Elaine's portrait was and set the purse on the end of the bed. Then he turned around and was about to leave the room when Mrs. Robinson stepped in through the door. She was naked.
She smiled at him.
"Let me out," Benjamin said. He rushed toward the door but she closed it behind her and turned the lock under the handle.
"Don't be nervous," she said.
Benjamin turned around.
"Get away from that door!"
"I want to say something first."
"Jesus Christ!" Benjamin put his hands up over his face.
"Benjamin, I want you to know I'm available to you," she said. "If you won't sleep with me this time "
"Oh my God."
"If you won't sleep with me this time, Benjamin, I want you to know you can call me up any time you want and we'll make some kind of arrangement."
"Let me out!"
"Do you understand what I said?"
"Yes! Yes! Let me out!"
"Because I find you very attractive and any time "
Suddenly there was the sound of a car passing along the driveway underneath the window.
Benjamin turned and leaped at the door. He pushed Mrs. Robinson aside, fumbled for the lock, then ran out the door and downstairs. He opened the front door of the house but then stepped back inside and hurried back onto the porch. He sat down with his drink and tried to catch his breath. The back door of the house slammed shut.
"Is that Ben's car in front?" Mr. Robinson called.
"Yes sir!" Benjamin said, jumping up from the chair.
Mr. Robinson came into the room.
"I drove I drove your wife home. She wanted me to drive her home so I so I drove her home."
"Swell," Mr. Robinson said. "I appreciate it."
"She's upstairs. She wanted me to wait down here till you got home."
"Standing guard over the old castle, are you."
"Here," Mr. Robinson said, reaching for Benjamin's glass. "It looks like you need a refill."
"I've got to go."
Mr. Robinson was frowning at him. "Is anything wrong?" he said. "You look a little shaken up."
"No," Benjamin said. "No. I'm just I'm just I'm just a little worried about my future. I'm a little upset about my future."
"Come on," Mr. Robinson said, taking the glass. "Let's have a nightcap together. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to you at the party."
Benjamin waited till Mr. Robinson had left the room, then took several deep breaths. When he finished taking the deep breaths he put his hands in his pockets and walked quickly back and forth till Mr. Robinson brought him his drink.
"Thank you very much, sir," he said as he took it.
"Not at all," Mr. Robinson said. He carried his drink to the chair beside Benjamin's and sat. "Well," he said. "I guess I already said congratulations."
Mr. Robinson nodded and sipped at his drink. "Ben?" he said. "How old are you now."
"Twenty. I'll be twenty-one next week."
Again Mr. Robinson nodded. "I guess you skipped a grade or two back there in high school," he said. "I guess that's why you graduated so young."
Mr. Robinson reached into his pocket for a package of cigarettes and held them out to Benjamin. He took one and put it in his mouth. "Ben?" Mr. Robinson said, picking up a book of matches and lighting the cigarette for him. "That's a hell of a good age to be."
Mr. Robinson lit a cigarette for himself and dropped the match in an ash tray. "I wish I was that age again," he said.
"You'll never be young again."
"And I think maybe I think maybe you're a little too worried about things right now."
"You seem all wrapped up about things," Mr. Robinson said. "You don't seem to be Ben, can I say something to you?"
"How long have we known each other now."
Benjamin shook his head.
"How long have you and I known each other. How long have your dad and I been partners."
"Quite a while."
"I've watched you grow up, Ben."
"In many ways I feel almost as though you were my own son."
"So I hope you won't mind my giving you a friendly piece of advice."
"I'd like to hear it."
"Ben?" Mr. Robinson said, settling back in his chair and frowning up over Benjamin's head. "I know as sure as I'm sitting here that you're going to do great things someday."
"I hope you're right."
"Well I am right," he said. "That's something I just know. But Ben?"
"I think " He dropped an ash from his cigarette into the ash tray. "I think you ought to be taking it a little easier right now than you seem to."
"Sow a few wild oats," Mr. Robinson said. "Take things as they come. Have a good time with the girls and so forth."
Benjamin glanced at the door.
"Because Ben, you're going to spend most of your life worrying. That's just the way it is, I'm afraid. But right now you're young. Don't start worrying yet, for God's sake."
"Before you know it you'll find a nice little girl and settle down and have a damn fine life. But until then I wish you'd try and make up a little for my mistakes by "
Mrs. Robinson, dressed again in the green dress and the gold pin she had worn to the party, stepped into the room.
"Don't get up," she said.
Benjamin sat back down in the chair. Mrs. Robinson seated herself on the couch and picked up her unfinished drink from the floor.
"I was just telling Ben here he ought to sow a few wild oats," Mr. Robinson said. "Have a good time while he can. You think that's sound advice?"
Mrs. Robinson nodded.
"Yes I sure do," her husband said.
Benjamin finished his drink quickly and set it down on the table beside him. "I've got to go," he said.
"Just hang on here, Ben," Mr. Robinson said. "Wait'll I finish my drink, then I'm going to have you spin me around the block in that new car out front."
"Maybe he's tired," Mrs. Robinson said.
"Oh no. No." He picked up his glass and held it up to his mouth till the ice cubes clicked down against his teeth. Then he replaced it on the table.
"Do you want another?" Mrs. Robinson said.
"Sure," Mr. Robinson said. "You have yourself a few flings this summer. I bet you're quite the ladies' man."
"What?" Mr. Robinson said, grinning at him. "You look like the kind of guy that has to fight them off."
Benjamin reached for his glass.
"Are you sure you won't have another?" Mrs. Robinson said.
Mr. Robinson turned to his wife. "Doesn't he look to you like the kind of guy who has trouble keeping the ladies at a distance?"
"Yes he does."
"Oh say," Mr. Robinson said. "When does Elaine get down from Berkeley."
"Saturday," she said.
"Ben, I want you to give her a call."
"Because I just know you two would hit it off real well. She's a wonderful girl and I'm just awful sorry you two haven't got to know each other better over the years."
"I am too," Benjamin said. He watched Mr. Robinson until he had taken the last swallow from his glass, then stood. "I'll take you around the block," he said.
Benjamin walked ahead of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson through the hall and to the front door and opened it. Mrs. Robinson stepped out onto the front porch after them.
He put his hands in his pockets and walked down across the flagstone path without answering her.
"Thank you for taking me home."
Benjamin nodded without turning around.
"I'll see you soon, I hope," she said.
"Hey Ben," Mr. Robinson said, opening the door of the car and getting in. "What do you say we hit the freeway with this thing and see what she does."
Copyright © 1963 by Charles Webb
Copyright renewed © 1991 by Anti-Demfamation League of B'Nai Brith
Meet the Author
Charles Webb is also the author of New Cardiff. He lives with his wife in East Sussex, England.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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While “Plastics” was the word that became the punch line to a thousand jokes (thanks to Mike Nichols’ sharp eponymous film starring Dustin Hoffman, whose portrayal of anti-hero Benjamin Braddock launched him to cinematic renown), “grotesque” is the true operative word at play in Webb’s mordant novel of early 1960s middle-class ennui and hypocrisy. “Grotesque” sums up how Benjamin Braddock sees everything in his life. This reviewer was completely unaware of the original novel, so after having seen the movie umpteen times, reading Webb’s words – spare and unadorned, and couched in a dry and often hostile tone – was a revelation. Webb’s style is edgy, and the dialogue pace is swift, often akin to the rallies of a tense tennis match. No one, and I mean no one, is particularly likable in this story, not even Benjamin Braddock. So the reader should put the earnest face and voice of Dustin Hoffman out of his mind and stop hearing the idyllic lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel’s songs in the background. They will only get in the way of fully understanding the uncomfortable world Braddock and his fellow travelers inhabit. Although written simply, “The Graduate” is not a simple book; there is more to the work than meets the eye, as Webb throws many darts at his target, which is American culture. A perfect book for club discussions as its themes remain relevant.
A true 1960's classic. If you liked the film, you'll like the book. Benjamin's behavior is both compelling and annoying at the same time. At times, I just wanted to stop reading buy found myself reacting like humans sometimes do when there is a bad accident on the freeway - you don't want to look but you can't stop looking. There was one page about three-fourths of the way through the book that had some rather significant editing errors. Missing words, half sentences and other typos. Except for that one area, the book was well edited and complete.
Strange behavior that borders on psycotic.
'The Graduate' is a wryly comic novel about a twenty-one year old graduate who has an affair with the sultry forty year-old Mrs. Robinson. He then falls for Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine, who just happens to know about the affair because Mrs. Robinson will do anything to keep her daughter and former lover apart. Rich and full of dark and wry humor, 'The Graduate' is wonderful. If you liked the pseudo-faithful film, you will like the the novel as well. Definately more thorough through Benjamin's life.
After I down loaded this book, I realized that it is an incomplete book... my down load is more of a sample! I am really disappointed! Do not purchase till they fix this problem!