Character Analysis: The Graduate

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After returning home from his final year of college, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), the lead character and protagonist of Mark Nichols’ 1967 film, The Graduate, engages in an extramarital affair with Anne Bancroft’s, considerably older character, Mrs. Robinson. Surrounded by a material culture which is reinforced by the adults in his life, his parents especially, Benjamin seeks a life that does not compensate for happiness through physical possessions, rather, a life in which he is truly happy. Benjamin discovers over the course of the film, that his relationship with Mrs. Robinson does not go beyond the physical, and the feeling of discontent remains, seemingly, until the character of Elaine (Katherine Ross) is introduced. While it…show more content…
In Benjamin’s limited encounters with Elaine, he discovers that a relationship with her is the first with genuine potential and makes the decision to pursue her. Yet, the appealing nature of their relationship subsides by the end of the film, when Benjamin and Elaine both make the impulsive decision to escape their parents and begin their lives together. In the final scene of the film, as the camera tracks the bus they are leaving on and stops, a sign with the words “No Left Turn” is visible. While the ending of the film is already ambiguous to reflect the lingering ambivalence in Benjamin’s life through the camera tracking and halting, allowing for his future with Elaine to be open to interpretation, the inclusion of this sign enhances this. Amidst he and Elaine’s invigorating declaration of love, once the two are no longer distracted and enthralled by the relief of a fresh romance, they remember their impending future which they will now have to face together. The “No Left Turn” sign in the final scene suggests that, although Benjamin and Elaine sought a future not based on obligation, their once sincere affection towards each other may deteriorate into a forced bond, similar to Mr. and Mrs. Robinson’s marriage. So long as that opportunity remains, and neither can ensure certain happiness, both Benjamin and Elaine will remain devoid of

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