The Graduate

Title: The Graduate

Author: Charles Webb

Publish Date: 1963

Genre: Coming-of-Age Fiction

Page Length: Approx. 230 pages


The Graduate, written by Charles Webb in 1963, is a compelling coming-of-age novel that explores the life of Benjamin Braddock, a disoriented and disillusioned protagonist who struggles to find his purpose in a society dominated by social expectations and conformity. This concise summary provides a clear overview of the plot, significant characters, main themes, and the book’s importance as a poignant reflection on society.

Part 1: Benjamin’s Confusion and Mrs. Robinson’s Seduction

Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate, returns home feeling isolated and uncertain about his future. His affluent parents, Mr. and Mrs. Braddock, expect him to embark on a successful career. Lost and restless, Benjamin begins an aimless affair with Mrs. Robinson, a family friend and the wife of his father’s business partner.

Part 2: Benjamin’s Relationship with Elaine and Mrs. Robinson’s Vengeance

As Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson’s relationship becomes increasingly fraught, Benjamin’s parents pressure him to take Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, on a date. Benjamin reluctantly agrees, but their connection becomes genuine as they share moments of emotional authenticity. Mrs. Robinson feels betrayed and vehemently opposes the potential relationship between Benjamin and her daughter.

Part 3: The Turmoil of Love and Society’s Pressure

Benjamin falls deeply in love with Elaine, even proposing to her. However, Elaine discovers Benjamin’s previous affair with her mother, resulting in her furious rejection. Society’s expectations play an integral role as Benjamin’s parents, Mrs. Robinson, and even Elaine’s fiancé actively discourage Benjamin from pursuing a relationship with Elaine. Benjamin, understanding his love for Elaine is genuine, challenges the conventions imposed on him.

Part 4: Rebellion, Unconventional Love, and a Dramatic Ending

Despite the societal backlash, Benjamin and Elaine decide to run away together to pursue their independent path. The novel culminates in a captivating, dramatic ending as Benjamin and Elaine interrupt Elaine’s wedding to escape together. The scene, set in a church, becomes chaotic and intense, leaving readers on the edge of their seats.

Noteworthy Characters:

1. Benjamin Braddock – The protagonist struggling with identity issues and societal expectations.
2. Mrs. Robinson – Benjamin’s father’s business partner’s wife, with whom Benjamin has a complex and damaging affair.
3. Elaine Robinson – Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, with whom Benjamin ultimately falls in love and challenges convention.
4. Mr. and Mrs. Braddock – Benjamin’s parents, representing the conformist, upper-class society that adds to Benjamin’s confusion and disorientation.

Themes Explored:

1. Alienation and Disillusionment: Benjamin’s struggle to find his place in a society that he perceives as superficial and inauthentic.
2. Rebellion against Social Norms: Benjamin’s rebellion against societal expectations and his decision to choose love and authenticity over conformity.
3. Love and Relationships: The exploration of different forms of love, from unhealthy and manipulative (Mrs. Robinson) to genuine and transformative (Elaine).
4. Generational Conflict: The clash between the traditional values of Benjamin’s parents’ generation and the changing landscape of the 1960s.


The Graduate is an important work in American literature as it explores universal themes of disillusionment, rebellion, and societal pressure. Charles Webb delves into the complex psyche of a young man caught between societal expectations and his own search for identity. The novel resonates with readers, particularly high school and college students, who are going through similar transitions to adulthood. Through its engaging narrative, The Graduate provokes discussions about the impact of societal conformity and the importance of personal authenticity, making it an enduring and influential piece of literature.