The Graduate: A Riveting Movie Review

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The Graduate: A Reflection of the 1960s

The Graduate is one of the critical groundbreaking movies which emphases more on black comedy and has a hint of the nineteen sixties radicalism. The play is about a young college graduate from East coast who realises he is segregated and wandering in the changing sexual and social mores of the nineteen sixties and at most times questioning the authorities. Evidently, the play highlights how an innocent and confused youth is subjugated, misused, seduced and deceived by an immoral, degenerate and disgraced older generation. Also, two different generations are also highlighted in the play through the characters. This research paper seeks to identify the historical period within which The Graduate was produced and historical occurrences within that period and how these events influenced the production of the movie.

Historical period During Which the Graduate was produced

The Graduate was released in December nineteen sixty-seven, and during this time Vietnam was still l raging. During this era, many young people were drafted into the war, and the system of drafting brought the war into the American home front. Also, many soldiers did not support the war, and as a result, many young men fled to neighbouring countries such as Canada just to avoid recruitment (Gray, & Beverly, 20). Many youths felt that the drift was like a death sentence because they did not understand why they had to be sent to war for a cause they did not believe in at all. Activists who were against the war felt that the act of compulsory recruitment was immoral and the only way the government would continue the fight was through recruitment of new soldiers. Consequently, as the government continued to intensify the efforts of drafting, the antiwar revolutions also escalated. For instance, during this time in the United States, everybody was eligible to war or at least knew someone who was. Evidently, The Graduate belongs to the quieter of the decade just before the dawn of apocalypse (McMahon, & Robert, 15). At the time of the film's release, many historical events such as the assassinations of John Kennedy and also Martin Luther were happening. Additionally, there were also divisions due to civil rights and the Chicago riots were only months away.

Also, the movie was produced during a period which the hippie-counterculture blossomed throughout the United States. Additionally, they significantly oppose the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War. The movement originated from American universities although it spread throughout other countries such as Britain and Canada. Hippies decided to form their own distinctive culture because they had been eliminated from the middle-class society which was full of repression and materialism. Additionally, Hippies advocated for nonviolence and pushed for tolerance and openness. However, the young people who were part of the hippie culture turned out to be rebellious, and they did not agree with their conservative parents. Also, they believed in expanding their sexual relations and encouraged any sex and dismissed all types of taboos. However, this counterculture movement dealt drugs encouraged nudity, and they were always resisting the authorities.

How Historical Events impact the movie

The nineteen sixties is a crossroad for the America history. The Graduate is of tremendous importance in recording that period of history especially the behaviour of the young generation during that period. Evidently, the movie gives the Story of Benjamin who is a young college student who is seduced by Mrs Robison who is way too old than him. However, Benjamin ends up falling in love with Mrs Robinson daughter Elaine. For instance, the movies try to highlight the misunderstanding and vulnerability of the youth in America during the nineteen sixties. Moreover, the characteristics of counterculture are manifested throughout the play. Besides being an amusement, the movie plays an essential part in endorsing the culture and ideologies of the nineteen sixties through Benjamin who is the central character. Evidently, Benjamin is a critical figure in the nineteen sixties counter Cultural Revolution representing the alienated and disaffected youth. As depicted in the story, Benjamin is quite rebellious which was a common trait amongst the teenagers, even young men from good families feasibly rebel their parents.

During the nineteen sixties, the antiwar movements were quite prevalent in the United States. The movie is entirely inspired by the antiwar movements as clearly depicted in the film. Evidently, there is a scene in the film where Benjamin tiredly sits in the University of Berkeley when the national flag of America is flying high just above his head. Historically, Berkeley is one of the most active campuses in the antiwar movements. It becomes popular after it organises the free speech movement in nineteen sixty-four and the strike against Vietnam organised by students during that period. This riots and demonstrations are held by the students to resist the compulsory drifting into the military to serve in the Vietnam War. Consequently, many young people died and got injuries under the draft which caused a lot of anguish to their parents.

The difference between the two generations is depicted through the conversation between Benjamin and his father, which farther reflects the different attitude of the youth of that generation towards their conservative parents. As highlighted in the movie, Benjamin is in the transitional movement for he is neither a professional, nor a student and his liminal age makes him feel adrift and unsure. During the nineteen sixties there was a resilient discontentment of the current societal state and the sense of value in the middle among the young people. In nineteen eighty-seven, with the outbreak of Vietnam, the counterculture and the antiwar movements reached the peak. Age is an essential issue in the movie because the age gap between Mrs Robinson and Benjamin is one of the significant transgressions advancing the plot of the play. For example, Mrs Robinson tries to make sexual advances towards Benjamin who is way younger than him. However, she does not see anything wrong with such an act despite there being taboos around such an erotic relationship. Young people living in America during that time did not face the effects of war, and therefore there was an age bracket gap between the youths and their parents.

The movie begins by showing Benjamin who is lonely, unhappy and void in his facial expression. Also, "The keynote" which is the theme song of expresses a stuck and an empty feeling and it's the keynote of the entire movie. At the end of the film, Ben and Elaine escape from the church and board a bus, while sitting in the van, their facial expressions depict calmness which entirely is different from the excitements when they are running away from the church. Although they have made their own choice to live away from their parents and families, they still do not know their next move. The hollow feeling in the movie tries to highlight the ideology of the young people living in America during the nineteen sixties. The older people had the mentality that the young generation would embrace their quiet life and keep fighting for the American vision. However, the young age did not understand why they had to continue championing for the American dream, and their hopes of attaining public integrity are somewhat idyllic.

Another illustration of the youth culture during the nineteen sixties is the hippie, and they are remembered for wearing fancy clothes, crazy hairstyles and their habit of drug abuse. Hippies were always against the mainstream, and they reacted to tough and challenging moments by separating themselves from the society. In the graduate, there are several scenes which highlight the culture of the hippies. For example, when Benjamin and Elaine are having refreshments and conversing in the car, there is a group of hippies playing loud rock music adjacent to their car. Consequently, Benjamin requests them to reduce the volume but instead the hippie increases the volume and keeps playing the loud music. Their response demonstrates the notion of counterculture and condemnation of the public mainstream (Belton, & John, 30) Also, Mr.mccleery suspects that Benjamin is a hippie, a campus protester, and a political agitator of which he is not. Manifestly, Benjamin is not a Hippie nor a rebel because he does not embrace the idea of transgression and neither does he reject the society through making his own rules.

Mrs Robinson's seductive behaviour reflects the sexual revolution which was part of the counterculture movements in the nineteen sixties. Evidently, Mrs Robinson is a symbol of an under-stimulated and a frustrated housewife, and her rebellion tactic is through her sexuality. She resists the misogynistic of domesticity through making sexual advances to a man younger than him. Manifestly, sexuality is Mrs Robinson greatest weapon, and she uses it to get what she wants even if it means hurting others. This new principle of free love encouraged lots of young people to embrace the beauty of sex as a natural part of everyday life. However, the relationship between Mrs Robinson and Benjamin might have been due to loneliness and helplessness.


Forty years later after the release of The Graduate, the movie is still relevant to the generation today, and its themes are still timely. The storyline line of the story is so appealing to people today because at specific points in life people tend to question their sense of directions. Additionally, romantic and love affairs with older women is a common trend today, and therefore many people tend to relate to the movie. Despite many moments which appear to be a cliché to the modern audiences, any aspect of the film which might seem outdated is overshadowed by the fact that The Graduate emphases about issues and historical events dated in the nineteen sixties. Most people both young and old still adore the movie because many aspects of the film relate to current America.

Works Cited

Belton, John. American Cinema/american Culture. (2018). 1-32

 GRAY, BEVERLY. Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How the Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation. ALGONQUIN OF CHAPEL HILL, (2018). 24-49

Kember, Joe. Marketing modernity: Victorian popular shows and early cinema. Royal College of General Practitioners, 2015.

McMahon, Robert J. "5. Turning Point The Vietnam War's Pivotal Year, November 1967–November 1968." The Columbia History of the Vietnam War,( 2010). 10-16

September 25, 2023




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