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In the movie The Graduate, Mrs Robinson asks Benjamin not to take Elaine Robinson out or date her.

Why does she want to prevent Benjamin from dating her daughter?

Would it be that she thinks Benjamin does not have a good character? If yes, why is she having an affair with him in the first place?

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She considered Ben good enough for a cheap fling, but not good enough for her daughter. –  Django Reinhardt Nov 19 '12 at 7:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

It would be easy to just say it was jealousy, but that would miss out on the complexity of Mrs. Robinson and her place in feminine history. In an insightful article written for the Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, Rebecca Neumann traces how Mrs. Robinson has evolved into the "cougar" of recent times. She notes how difficult it is for people in recent generations to appreciate the experience of a middle-aged woman in the 60s. She also notes the care with which director Mike Nichols and writer Buck Henry crafted the character of Mrs. Robinson through details in the film.

Some points she makes:

  • Mrs. Robinson is a predator - she is often dressed in animal prints.
  • She is not motherly - she never shares a scene alone with her daughter.
  • She is vengeful toward her daughter whom she is jealous of for attending college - she seduces Benjamin in Elaine's bedroom even though she knows Elaine has a crush on Benjamin.
  • The affair, which is about power more than anything else, hurts her husband, whom she also holds responsible for her powerless situation because of the unplanned pregnancy that caused her to drop out of college.
  • Her powerlessness is also demonstrated in her financial dependence on her husband, her inability to drive, and the fact that the only name by which she is referred is her husband's name.

"The particular social order that produces The Graduate's Mrs. Robinson is specific to the 1960s." This bored, bitter woman was pre-sexual revolution, pre-birth control, pre-abortion, pre-women in the workforce after marriage, pre- no fault divorce. Mrs. Robinson was a woman with no choices, no outlets except this affair. It was a passionless affair of which Benjamin says they "might as well have been shaking hands." It was an attempt to have power over one corner of her life, a power she wielded over Benjamin, and in order to maintain that power, she naturally could not allow Benjamin to date her daughter.

Predator, Prisoner, and Role Model: The Evolving Figure of Mrs. Robinson, 2011

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interesting article; good find –  Oliver_C Sep 15 '12 at 14:02
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damn good answer.. –  John Smith Optional Oct 13 '13 at 21:07

I think that just as she used reverse psychology to seduce Benjamin (excusing him of being a virgin)- she does the same to get him to fall in love with Eline because she actually wishes her daughter to have a guy like him. There is proof of this for one second when he interrupts the wedding- and she smiles and tells her husband not to interfere. Later she changes back to being angry, acting out the proper mother part.

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I think Mrs Robinson tries to stop Benjamin dating her daughter because they have the same father. Watched The Graduate for the first time from start to finish yesterday and I think this is obvious. But you do need to read between the lines. It is not spelt out anywhere. But no other explanation makes any sense. Does anyone know if this idea has been explored by anyone over the years or am I the first to suggest this?

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You are probably the first to think along this line.. because it is pretty outrageous. Maybe the book has some answers to the question? –  jokerdino Oct 13 '13 at 16:09
    
I teach film and have an intelligent student who recently watched The Graduate for the first time and came to the same conclusion you did (i.e. that Ben and Elaine have the same father). It is an explanation I’d not heard before. My student said her conclusion was based on impressions and feelings she has difficulty putting into words and describing logically. I would be very curious to know how you would go about explaining how you came to your conclusion. The book, incidentally, does not hint at that, in my opinion. (Which of course does not make your opinion not valid). I would be very grat –  johnquindell Sep 29 at 12:01

I always believed that Mrs. Robinson had a woman's intuition premonition that Benjamin would fall in love with her daughter in certain circumstances. She knew this using intuition that they were a good match. Also she knew, just from common sense, that it would cause her pain if they did like each other. In life, based on experience, I've found it true that woman's intuition is a very real thing. So two parts here, partly it was a common sense avoidance of pain, and part it was woman's intuition trying to protect herself from pain.

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