It’s too late, Elaine!

February 12, 2010

The climactic scene in The Graduate, as everyone knows, is when Ben crashes the “arranged” wedding of his inamorata, Elaine, stands on the glassed-in balcony over the aisle watching them kiss before the minister, starts shaking the glass, and wails, “Elaaainnne!!”

The older generation goes berzerk, Elaine responds with “Bennn!”, and the two young people fight their way to the door of the church.  Elaine’s mother, Mrs. Robinson, grabs her and shouts, “It’s too late, Elaine!” to which she retorts, “Not for me, Mother!”  Ben flails about with a cross and locks the crowd in the sanctuary by ramming it into the door  and they make off in a yellow bus to the consternation of the other riders.

That short exchange between mother and daughter is what the movie is all about.  The dried up, lifeless, loveless, older generation tries to ruin the lives of their children, as theirs were ruined, but love is stronger, the vitality of youth breaks free, life has a chance.  The older generation sends the kids off to war in Vietnam, but the kids protest and fight back.  They want her to marry a cookie-cut medical student – she wants to marry Ben, who doesn’t know what he wants to do.

They sit in the back of the bus, giddy, a little sobered by what they’ve done.  They’re young and beautiful.  Ben is inwardly bubbling at the thought that he’s finally done something he really wants to do.  Elaine may be wondering what she’s getting herself into with this guy.  The problems of real adult life come later.  For now, the fairy tale carries the day.