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The Graduate is a book that is better understood when the reader considers the context. We follow the life of Benjamin Braddock, or rather the things that happen to Benjamin Braddock, as he enters the world post-education and struggles to find his place within it. He is a typical youth of the time - alienated and somewhat isolated from the rest of the happenings of the 60s, and we follow his exploits as he has an affair with Mrs Robinson, which occurs in such a way that he is seemingly led into it and goes along with it, rather than actively pursuing it or wanting it to happen.
Benjamin is disconnected from the world and sees little point to his life. His parents don't understand his disillusioned view of the world and want to know what he is going to do with his life, but Benjamin doesn't know anything that is worth doing. This is reflected in the many meaningless exchanges between characters in the book, and the sharp and sometimes sardonic dialogue. He has all this schooling, and all this supposed intelligence, but he is socially awkward and rarely has anything interesting to say. Although the spoken exchanges provide the reader with some humour, they also highlights the inability of the characters to engage with each other; Benjamin's parents do not listen to him, and his brief and comical exchanges with Mrs Robinson are all the more hollow because we know that they are only using each other for sex.
Benjamin finally experiences a change in his life when he meets Mrs Robinson's daughter, Elaine, who he becomes somewhat obsessed with. Mrs Robinson of course objects to their relationship and goes to all lengths to sabotage it, reflecting the America of her time; of social constraints and conformity. For Benjamin this struggle helps him to connect with the essence of the 60s, as he finally begins to rebel. The book does demonstrate the shifting social and sexual mores of the 60s, however I don't believe that it deserves as much praise as it has received for painting a picture of that time, as the book is sometimes a little dull to read, a tad repetitive, and not always very well written.