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Symbolism In The Graduate Essay, Research Paper

Symbolism exists in all aspects of stories from written literature to motion pictures. Symbolism helps the writer or director to express a deeper meaning by using images that signify something beyond the obvious. The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, is full of such images. Some of these symbols include Mrs. Robinson, Benjamin’s sunglasses, Benjamin driving alone, and water in many senses.

Mrs. Robinson is one of Benjamin’s friends mother. She is also his father’s business partner’s wife. Her and Benjamin have a secret love affair going on that carries a deeper meaning than just an affair. Though he knows it is wrong, Benjamin continues seeing Mrs. Robinson as an escape from life and from his parents. Benjamin’s father, in particular, is constantly pressuring him to continue his education in graduate school, but Benjamin is not so enthusiastic. Leaving every night and staying in the hotel till the next day with Mrs. Robinson is like another world for Benjamin, a world where his parents cannot hassle him.

Another way for Benjamin to escape, or hide, is in him wearing the sunglasses. The sunglasses are another that he tries to shield himself from his parents and their pestering. Benjamin’s favorite pastime is lying in the pool with his sunglasses on. The pool again symbolizes a way for Benjamin to escape and relax. He is shown countless time just drifting in the pool with his sunglasses on.

Another use of the water for symbolical purposes is with Benjamin’s fish tank. Just like the pool scenes, Benjamin is seen more than once gazing at the fish as they swim around. Benjamin watches the fish tank and it is another way for him escape reality.

For a college graduate, not sure about what he wants to do with his life next, escape from reality is the best antidote. Benjamin feels the pressure from his parents, from his dad in particular, and does what he can to get in a more relaxed mind-state. The director, through symbolism, has stressed all of these attempts.


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