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The Graduate

Webb, Charles Author

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The basis for Mike Nichols' acclaimed 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman -- and for successful stage productions in London and on Broadway -- this classic novel about a naive college graduate adrift in the shifting social and sexual mores of the 1960s captures with hilarity and insight the alienation of youth and the disillusionment of an era.
The Graduate
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.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Charles Webb is also the author of New Cardiff. He lives with his wife in East Sussex, England.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

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."

"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."

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.

"What?"

"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."

"Dad -- "

"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.

"No."

"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."

Benjamin nodded.

"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."

"I'm fine."

"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.

"What?"

"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!"

"What?"

"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?"ar

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.

"Dad?"

"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.

Benjamin nodded.

"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.

"This?"

"Yes."

"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?"

"No."

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?"

"That's right."

She handed him back the glass. "Well you still plan to teach don't you," she said.

"No."

"You don't?" she said. "Well what about your award."

"I'm not taking it."

"You're not?"

"No."

"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.

"Yes."

"He's in Harvard and Yale," his mother said. "And what's that other one?"

"Columbia."

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."

Benjamin nodded.

"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.

"Why no."

"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."

"Oh?"

"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.

"Of course."

"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?"

"No."

"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."

"Something is."

"Well what."

"I don't know!" Benjamin said. "But everything -- everything is grotesque all of a sudden."

"Grotesque?"

"Those people in there are grotesque. You're grotesque."

"Ben."

"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."
<...

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