I am watching The Graduate and am confused why Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) seduces Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) for no good reason. Why did Mr. Robinson talk like he wanted his wife to sleep with Benjamin?

Is Mrs. Robinson's seduction of Benjamin actually a plan by the Robinsons so that Benjamin won't marry their daughter?


2 Answers 2


Mrs. Robinson is the original cougar, so to speak.

She seduces Benjamin simply because she is tired of her marriage and wants a fun sexual encounter. Mr. Robinson was most certainly not aware of this.

From the Wiki:

Mr. Robinson, [once he learns about] his wife's affair with Benjamin, goes to his apartment in Berkeley and berates him, threatening to have him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, should Benjamin ever come near Elaine again. In the meantime, Benjamin has tried to tell Mr. Robinson that his wife has manipulated him into having an affair with her. But Mr. Robinson is also skeptic and refuses to believe him, and then he forces Elaine to drop out of school and takes her away to marry Carl. She leaves Benjamin a note, saying that although she loves him, her father's anger would prevent the family from ever accepting him as Elaine's husband.

Mr. Robinson was outraged once he'd learnt of Benjamin's actions, blaming him entirely for it.

Rebecca Neumann in an article on the film gave some explanation as to Mrs. Robinson's actions:

The film places significant emphasis on Mrs. Robinson's past as the motivation for her actions. As a young woman, an unplanned pregnancy forced her to give up her dreams, drop-out of college, and marry Mr. Robinson. Years later, her loveless marriage and empty nest bore and embitter Mrs. Robinson despite her luxurious life-style.

So no, Mrs. Robinson's seduction of Benjamin was most definitely not a plan to keep him and Elaine apart. It just ended up looking like that due to Mr. Robinson's reluctance to ever let Benjamin near his family again.

  • 2
    Mrs Robinson could be perceived as the Mrs Haversham of the New Hollywood. Whilst incidental, she still exists to punish Benjamin (as a symbol of patriarchy) for the failure of her own existance. She weaponizes not only her own sexuality, but that of her daughter, using a ward as conduit for revenge. The departure from Great Expectations exists as a marked one, with her overt sexuality demonstrating the shift in female representation. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 16:02
  • @JohnSmithOptional: That's a wonderful comment. I hadn't even thought of Great Expectations. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 16:10
  • there is 1 argument said that "I think Mrs Robinson tries to stop Benjamin dating her daughter because they have the same father." movies.stackexchange.com/questions/4158/… is that true, i think he made the remarkable point here
    – Tom
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 17:37
  • or maybe she's just jealousy with his daughter, & try to destroy the relationship between Benjamin & Elaine. So if that is the case then, my answer could be changed to "Is Mrs. Robinson's seduction of Benjamin actually a plan by Mrs. Robinson to prevent Benjamin from marrying her daughter?"
    – Tom
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 17:42
  • 2
    @Tom: That father/daughter argument isn't referenced anywhere in the book or the movie and seems like wild conjecture. On top of that, when the movie starts Benjamin has little to no interest in the daughter. He only gains an interest in her after all the goings on with the mother. I think you're looking a little too much for something you want to find - I just don't see it. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 7:38

It may have been a plan by Mrs. Robinson, only.

Mr. Robinson was the business partner of Ben's father, and initially welcomed Ben's dating Elaine. When he told Ben to "sow some wild oats," he may have envisioned Ben doing that with Elaine, but certainly not his wife. Later in the movie, he calls Ben "degenerate."

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