Art 105, Film as Art
October 5, 2009
"The Graduate" is a great film, with Dustin Hoffman, playing Benjamin (Ben) Braddock, the epitome of the confused and isolated young adult male. Ben is confused about where his life is heading, he fumbles for an answer whenever one of his parents' friends asks him "what are you going to do next?" He stares mournfully into his fish tank, perhaps likening himself to the fish dwelling within it. He is trapped in this glass cube. This movie is for anyone who’s ever wondered what he or she are going to do with their future. Not a classic love story, “The Graduate” is a coming of age film. You can see that by the different types of love portrayed in the film, love of self, parental love, lust and finally near the end of the film, romantic love.
We see self-love through out the film but heavily in the opening act. One example is when Ben is in his upstairs bedroom in his parents' home. He sits in his room staring blankly ahead, looking into his aquarium tank (while observing its occupants) and wanting to be alone with his thoughts. At the bottom of the aquarium tank is a model of a diver, symbolizing Ben's "drowning." He is thinking about his future and what to do. Ben tells us as much when his father comes in and notices Ben staring at the tank. He guesses Ben is worried and asks him if he is worried and what of. Ben replies “I guess about my future” and when pressed he says he wants it to be “different.” Clearly Ben is thinking only of himself at this time, he has graduated and now must decide what to do next, coming of age, Ben is unsure where he is going next. But Ben’s father is there for another reason, to get his son downstairs for his graduation party.
At the graduation party we see another form of love, that of parental love and part of coming of age is to stretch your wings and move out from under your parents total control. Ben’s father insists Ben come down to the party, but the guests at the party are all his parents’ friends, none of his friends, his parents want to show off their prized son. This display of parental love is a bit over the top and only gets worse when they read from his year book Ben’s long list of accomplishments. We see several scenes where this is evident, one of the best is a short time later when Ben is celebrating his 21st birthday - a crucial bridge year between youth and adulthood. His parents have thrown another party for him, again inviting only their own friends. Once more Ben is the featured attraction. He has reluctantly agreed to show off and model his birthday present for the guests, a new scuba diving outfit. Ben appears wearing the scuba suit, moving ponderously, with his fins on, through the crowd, and submerges himself at the bottom of his parents' pool for peace and silence just like the toy in his aquarium (except for the sound of his own rhythmic, heavy breathing). His parents are more concerned with showing Ben off to their friends then they are with giving him time to figure out where he wants to go. His parents love for him is truly driving him crazy and he is in conflict between their love of him and his love of himself, he finally takes a little charge when his father finds him floating around the pool not showing any ambition and asked him “Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?” and Ben replies, “You got me.” He is starting to come of age, parental love is evident through several scenes in the film but mostly in the beginning. When Ben is re-introduced to a family friend, Mrs. Robinson, she opens a whole new world to Ben, and the way she does it is thrilling to view. With Mrs. Robinson, Ben finds a new form of love, LUST and she will take him through another step in his journey to come of age, she will take his virginity. Lust is a major player in all of act two and part of act...
Cited: O’Conner, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 5th
Ed. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Boston: Wadsworth, 2004. 302-313.
---. “Good Country People.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 5th
Ed. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Boston: Wadsworth, 2004. 714-727.
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