The Graduate: what happens to Ben & Elaine?




I watched The Graduate last night.  It’s so interesting to see it again as an adult. I think that when I first saw it, I had really no idea what it was about. The music meant more to me then what was happening to Ben.  I understood parts of it – big parts:  Ben has no idea what he’s going to do with his life.  Clearly Ben’s family and friends are caught up in the trappings of success, and they expect Ben to jump on board the available gravy train, with no questions asked.

Mrs. Robinson is the physical manifestation of the gravy train. I understand that now, but I’m not sure I had lived long enough to really get what she represented at the time.  I saw it more as an issue of conformity in an absurd world whose priorities were upside down. After all, Viet Nam was in full swing in 1967. Interestingly, Ben stayed in college and avoided the war. So he already was part of the gravy train mentality to a point.  But I’m getting off track.

That last scene is what I’ve been thinking about, when Ben and Elaine run away from the church and get on the bus (Total Digression Alert:  Ken Keasey would have said that Ben’s decision missed the point entirely, because: “You’re either on the bus, or you’re off the bus,” or off the grid completely, according to Keasey.)

I love the ending. I’m not sure I know what happens next, because Ben and Elaine are not really riding off into the sunset. But they’re happy. What do you think happens next?


8 thoughts on “The Graduate: what happens to Ben & Elaine?

      1. Yes! You’re so right. Someone pointed out that Mrs. Robinson never finished college, but Elaine dosen’t finish either. Repeating the same mistakes of her mother doesn’t bode well. Thanks for commenting!

  1. I was older than you were when I first saw it. Still am. But I don’t remember even getting that there was anything to get. It was just a story. Now I guess I need to see it again.

    1. Oh Willy. I saw it with my Aunt and I was completely mortified by the experience. She wanted to know what I thought. It’s taken until now to even express this much.

  2. It’s a great film. I’ve always thought the end is ambiguous – the final shot is held too long to be celebratory – their expressions are hard to read in a simple way. In short, I think it probably ends messily. Great post.

  3. Yes, you’re right about the ambiguity. When they first sit down they are both all smiles. It’s a triumphant moment, and it clearly signifies the ending of the story . . . for now. A sequel, though, would be so wrong. I want to leave these two just where they were. Thanks for commenting, Richard.

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