The Graduate (1967)

Brief Intro

“The Graduate,” directed by Mike Nichols and released in 1967, is a seminal film that captures the spirit of 1960s America. The film follows the story of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who finds himself lost and directionless. Things take a complicated turn when he is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a friend of his parents, and subsequently falls in love with her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). This dark comedy explores themes of alienation, rebellion, and the search for purpose in a rapidly changing world.

Literary Devices Used in The Graduate


Movie SceneDevice Example
Benjamin’s welcome home partyBenjamin’s parents and their friends celebrate his accomplishments while he feels completely lost and unaccomplished.
Mrs. Robinson’s seductionMrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin under the pretense of friendship, contrasting the typical nurturing role of an older woman.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Scuba suitThe scuba suit Benjamin receives represents his isolation and the pressure he feels from his parents.
Fish tankThe fish tank in Benjamin’s room symbolizes his entrapment and lack of direction in life.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Mrs. Robinson’s first encounterHer initial seduction hints at the complications that will arise in Benjamin’s future.
Benjamin stalking ElaineBenjamin’s obsessive behavior foreshadows the inevitable conflict between him and Mrs. Robinson.


Movie SceneDevice Example
The poolThe pool represents Benjamin’s subconscious desire for freedom and escape.
The cross at the weddingThe cross Benjamin uses to barricade the church door symbolizes his rebellion against societal norms.


Movie SceneDevice Example
WaterWater is a recurring motif symbolizing Benjamin’s subconscious and emotional state.
PlasticsThe word “plastics” is repeatedly mentioned, symbolizing superficiality and materialism.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Benjamin’s roomPosters of foreign lands in Benjamin’s room allude to his desire for escape and adventure.
Mrs. Robinson’s nameMrs. Robinson’s name alludes to the cultural archetype of the predatory older woman.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Benjamin and Mr. RobinsonMr. Robinson’s enthusiasm for Benjamin’s future contrasts sharply with Benjamin’s own disillusionment.
The seduction scene vs. Elaine’s innocenceThe stark contrast between Mrs. Robinson’s predatory nature and Elaine’s innocence highlights Benjamin’s internal conflict.


Movie SceneDevice Example
“Plastics”The repeated advice to go into “plastics” emphasizes the emptiness of societal expectations.
Benjamin’s aimless drivingScenes of Benjamin driving aimlessly are repeated to illustrate his lack of direction.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Benjamin’s academic successDespite his academic success, Benjamin feels completely lost and unsure about his future.
The climactic wedding sceneBenjamin and Elaine’s escape is ironically uncertain and ambiguous, rather than a clear happy ending.


Movie SceneDevice Example
Suburban lifeThe film satirizes the emptiness of suburban life through the portrayal of Benjamin’s parents and their friends.
Career adviceThe shallow career advice Benjamin receives is a satirical take on 1960s societal values.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Benjamin Braddock

Literary DeviceExplanation
Symbolism (Scuba suit)The scuba suit symbolizes Benjamin’s feeling of being trapped and suffocated by societal expectations.
Irony (Welcome home party)The irony of celebrating Benjamin’s accomplishments highlights his internal struggle and sense of disconnection.

Mrs. Robinson

Literary DeviceExplanation
Metaphor (The cross)Mrs. Robinson’s use of seduction as a means of control is metaphorically linked to the cross Benjamin uses at the wedding.
Juxtaposition (Seduction vs. Elaine’s innocence)Her predatory nature is contrasted with Elaine’s innocence, emphasizing her complexity and inner conflict.

Elaine Robinson

Literary DeviceExplanation
Motif (Water)Elaine’s interactions with water scenes symbolize her purity and the cleansing of Benjamin’s troubled past.
Foreshadowing (Relationship with Benjamin)Early scenes hint at Elaine’s pivotal role in Benjamin’s journey towards self-discovery.

Character Dynamics

Benjamin’s relationships with Mrs. Robinson and Elaine are central to the film’s narrative and themes. The tension between his illicit affair with Mrs. Robinson and his genuine affection for Elaine drives the story forward, highlighting themes of rebellion, confusion, and the search for authenticity. Mrs. Robinson’s manipulation and Elaine’s innocence serve as opposing forces, pushing Benjamin towards a path of self-awareness and personal growth.

Thematic Analysis


Literary DeviceExplanation
Symbolism (Fish tank)The fish tank symbolizes Benjamin’s feeling of entrapment and isolation.
Metaphor (Pool)The pool scenes metaphorically represent Benjamin’s desire to escape his current life.


Literary DeviceExplanation
Irony (Wedding scene)Benjamin’s interruption of Elaine’s wedding symbolizes his rebellion against societal norms.
Juxtaposition (Parents vs. Benjamin)The contrasting values of Benjamin and his parents highlight his desire to break free from their expectations.

Search for Identity

Literary DeviceExplanation
Repetition (Driving scenes)Repeated scenes of Benjamin driving aimlessly illustrate his search for identity and direction.
Allusion (Posters in room)The foreign land posters in Benjamin’s room allude to his yearning for a different life and identity.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
Symbolism (Scuba suit)Visual designThe scuba suit’s cumbersome nature visually represents Benjamin’s suffocation by societal pressures.
Irony (Welcome home party)Sound designThe celebratory music contrasts with Benjamin’s internal despair, enhancing the irony of the scene.
Motif (Water)CinematographyRecurrent water imagery, through shots of pools and rain, reflects Benjamin’s emotional state and desire for cleansing.
Foreshadowing (Stalking Elaine)EditingThe quick cuts and tense music during Benjamin’s stalking scenes foreshadow the conflict and tension in his pursuit of Elaine.

Key Scene Analysis

Mrs. Robinson Seduction Scene

  • Link to scene
  • Breakdown: The use of low lighting, close-up shots, and seductive music emphasizes the tension and complexity of Mrs. Robinson’s character and her relationship with Benjamin. The scene’s pacing and dialogue reveal the power dynamics at play, highlighting themes of control and manipulation.

Elaine’s Wedding Scene

  • Link to scene
  • Breakdown: The chaotic camera work, frantic music, and symbolic use of the cross to barricade the door underscore the themes of rebellion and the clash between personal desires and societal expectations. This scene encapsulates the film’s climax, portraying Benjamin’s ultimate act of defiance.


Interactive Multiple Choice Quiz

  1. What does the scuba suit symbolize in the film?
    • A) Adventure
    • B) Isolation and pressure from parents
    • C) Success
    • D) Freedom
  2. Which literary device is primarily used in the wedding scene?
  3. How does water function as a motif in “The Graduate”?
    • A) It represents wealth
    • B) It symbolizes purity and cleansing
    • C) It indicates danger
    • D) It highlights social status
  4. What is the significance of the repeated advice to go into “plastics”?
    • A) It suggests environmental concerns
    • B) It symbolizes the materialistic and superficial values of the time
    • C) It is a career recommendation
    • D) It represents innovation
  5. How does the use of close-up shots in Mrs. Robinson’s seduction scene enhance the narrative?
    • A) It adds humor
    • B) It highlights the tension and intimacy between the characters
    • C) It creates confusion
    • D) It shows the setting in detail