Benjamin Braddock In Nichols’ The Graduate

1140 words - 5 pages

A Boy Who Saves Himself Through Madness: An in Depth Look at Benjamin Braddock in Nichols' The Graduate Benjamin Braddock is alone and confused, "drowning" in a life that he is trying to desperately keep afloat. Upon returning home from the East Coast, the recent college graduate soon finds himself questioning the values of society and alienated from the world he thought he knew so well. The Graduate portrays the life of an upper-class boy who is embarking on the most confusing experiences of his life as he is transitioning into adulthood. Ben is an innocent an exploited young man who feels the pressure to conform but is struggling with his attempt of becoming his own "man." Throughout the film, Ben is seduced and betrayed by the older generation (including his parents, his dad's business friend, and the Robinsons) and feels the need to break away from the life of "plastics" and Los Angeles and find out what it is that truly makes him happy. Utilizing Nichol's The Graduate, I will attempt to make sense of the complex and contradictory, yet sympathetic and endearing character of Benjamin Braddock. In the opening scene Ben is alone in the shot and then the camera opens up to reveal him amongst a crowd on an airplane. He immediately seems shy and his face is expressionless. When he departs the plane he is riding along a moving walkway alone. He is oblivious to his surroundings. In the background a voice is repeating: "please stay to the right and only pass on the left hand side of the walkway." This scene tells us a lot about Ben's character. Instead of taking a proactive approach and moving to the left side of the walkway he stays on the right and allows others to move on ahead of him. This foreshadows his initial attitude of letting life pass him by; however, as the movie progresses Ben's attitude changes as well. Upon arriving home, Ben immediately retreats to his room to ponder. While his suburbanite parents are entertaining their guests and "celebrating" their sons successes, Ben is upstairs, alone, admiring the fish tank. The fish tank is symbolic of how he feels trapped, floating with no real purpose other than to stay "afloat." Ben is much like the scuba diver at the bottom of the tank: drowning in his own waters. Ben is confused and frustrated as he's trying to make sense of his future. Ben's straightedge lifestyle is soon to be challenged but in a larger sense his whole life purpose is challenged. He feels obligated to conform to his parent's materialistic, shallow, California, lifestyle, but at the same time he wants to rebel and do something more with his life than make money off of "plastics." After the first confrontation of innocent Ben and the seasoned Mrs. Robinson, she convinces him to drive her home. Then she insists he come inside and have a drink. Ben's indecisive and passive character emerges in this scene, as he is unable to tell her "no." As Mrs. Robinson undresses, Ben becomes increasingly...

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