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?

  • 1
    She considered Ben good enough for a cheap fling, but not good enough for her daughter. Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 7:26

9 Answers 9


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


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?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Oct 13, 2013 at 16:09
  • 1
    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
    – user14001
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 12:01
  • I think it is true. At least for me it was obvious.
    – Makatun
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 3:23
  • 1) When he asked Mrs. Robinson if he was good enough she had a face of a person who suffers from guilt. Later she says "Of course I wouldn't" (say that she is better person than Ben) because she knows he is her brother. 2) When Mrs. Robinson is threatening that she will tell her daughter about their affair she loses too much even to make such a threat. She loses daughter and a husband. She seduced him just to prevent their relationship with her daughter.
    – Makatun
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 3:43
  • 3) When he tells Elaine that he slept with her mother Mrs. Robinson is in the corner feeling that she is doing a very wrong thing but it needs to be done. She feels bad for Ben and for Elaine. 4) Simple jealousy cannot be a valid point. She is ok with her daughter marrying other dude. She is not jealous there
    – Makatun
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 3:43

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.


I watched The Graduate tonight for the first time since it was in theaters in the late 60s. I didn't remember much about it, so it was almost like seeing it for the first time. I also wondered why Mrs. R so adamantly didn't want Ben to date Elaine. But the theory that he and Elaine had the same father makes a lot of sense for the reasons shared already: Mr. R says "You're almost like my own son". Also, Ben was asked- more than once- by both Mr. and Mrs. R, "How long have I known you?" The answer was all his life. Finally, when he told Elaine he had an affair and she asked if the woman was married and had a family, he said yes, and they had a son. (not a daughter) I thought he said it as a cover up when I heard it, but maybe there was more meaning to it than that.


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.


I just saw this for the first time, and I completely believed that Benjamin and Elaine had the same father from the minute Mrs. Robinson reacted so strongly to the possibility that Ben might date Elaine. To me, it was really obvious, so that it came as a weird surprise when that didn't pan out. Almost as if they shot the movie with that intention and then backed out at the last second. It made perfect sense - the close relationship of the families since before the children were conceived, Mr. Robinson's comment in the beginning to the effect of "you're almost like my own son," Mrs. Robinson's willingness to sabotage her entire life to keep Ben from Elaine, even though she clearly had no personal interest in him and no jealously of him dating other girls, Mrs. R's hatred of her husband, her taking revenge by sleeping with his partner and never telling anyone that the child wasn't his, or possibly, if Ben is really Mr. R's son, instead of the other way around, her sleeping with his son by a different woman (Which would be a trickier scenario because one would have to believe that even Ben's mom did not realize her baby came from her fling with her husband's partner, and /only/ Mrs. Robinson figured it out, but still a possibility.)


There could be a simple reason: the old taboo against a mother and daughter sleeping with the same man. Having "had" Benjamin for herself, Mrs. Robinson wouldn't want her daughter to "share" him.


Along the theme of Benjamin and Elaine having the same father. I had the same thought. Was it purposeful of the director ... was it accidental innuendo ... wild imagination?

The absoluteness, emphatic insistence and secrecy was the reason for my suspicion. Robinson was Benjamin's partner ...the friendship was 'Ben's whole life'. If true then Ben's Dad was unaware.

The end of the movie nulled my suspicions. Mrs. Robinson clearly was , civilly, urbanely, using Ben. The director gave us no lingering looks between her and Ben's Father.

In the end I believe the affair and the barrier to Ben and Elaine's future was Mrs.Robinsons Anger towards her husband.

  1. separate rooms.
  2. He comes home late with golf clubs.
  3. She admits to being addicted to alcohol..imply her life is to blame.
  4. She hates to be alone in her own house ...imply she is not mistress of net desmense.
  5. Hurting her husband most deeply...premeditated affair with his partners son.
  6. Rejection of the marriage Alliance between the two families is anathema to her. ... it sets a permanent validation to her husband and his life.

The 2005 film, "Rumor Has It..." , based on the "The Graduate", directly addresses the possibility that the Elaine-type character (played by Jennifer Aniston) may have been fathered by someone else (played by Kevin Costner) other than the person understood to be her father. I always assumed this was the reason Mrs. Robinson was hellbent on preventing Ben and Elaine from getting together. Although it is proven with awkward twists in "Rumor..." that the two are not related, it's the only movie that ever tried to analyze what motivated Mrs.Robinson.

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