|Dustin Hoffman played Benjamin Braddock and Anne Bancroft played Mrs. Robinson|
The Graduate (1963)
by Charles Webb
Existentialism was the signature philosophical influence on literature between the end of World War II and the mid 1960's. Originally a product of thinkers who had actually witnessed the horrors of trench warfare in World War I and the various nightmares of World War II, Existentialism soon migrated to the cities and towns of North America. By the early 1960's, Existentialism had extended far beyond the philosophical texts of the original proponents. In the middle and upper echelons of American society, it interacted with the rise in national prosperity and growth of consumer markets to create literary characters like Holden Caulfield, from The Catcher in the Rye and Benjamin Braddock, the protagonist of The Graduate.
These youthful American existentialists too advantage of new-found freedoms for young people and used them to explicitly violate the mores of the world that had given them that freedom. Because of the movie version, which swept the major Oscar categories in 1968, The Graduate, and Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, are firmly ingrained in the American psyche, almost more so than other competing icons like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, or Caulfield.
At around 160 pages, The Graduate is more novella than novel, but the book/movie popularity and the a la mode nature of the older woman/younger man sexual relationship make it a signature work of early 60s American fiction, kind of an overgrown New Yorker story.