Keys in the Fish Tank


After The Graduate, we talked a lot about how water was used throughout the film to symbolize both Ben’s escape from reality, but also his feeling of being pressured in his life because he is “just drifting.” We payed a lot of attention to the scene where he is standing at the bottom of the pool in his scuba gear, but I don’t think that we brought up how this scene–and the major themes of the film–was actually foreshadowed at the beginning of the film during Ben’s first major interaction with Mrs. Robinson.

When Mrs. Robinson asks Ben to drive her home, at one point he nervously throws her the keys, only to have her toss them back at him. She misses by a long shot (obviously on purpose to flirt with him), but in doing so, ends up throwing the keys in the fish tank. This simple act is symbolic of how Mrs. Robinson interrupts Ben’s “drifting” ¬†and adds a purpose/direction to his life (an inappropriate direction, of course, but at least she gets him to actually do something). But what is really cool, is, if you look carefully, you’ll notice that the keys knock over a statue of a frog in the fish tank (it’s hard to tell, but it seems like it is wearing scuba gear of some sort), that bears a striking resemblance to the pose that Ben makes while he is standing at the bottom of the pool. The film uses a whole bunch of these little nuances through muse-en-scene, but I thought that this one was especially worth noting. Even from the beginning, the film was telling us where it was going.

One thought on “Keys in the Fish Tank”

  1. I agree with the creativity that is expressed in this sequence, as well as the reinforcement of the theme about the difficulties in bildungsroman narratives. Expanding on the directionless college graduate, who is for the most part an innocent youth who is exploited in a sense by an older generation to be corrupt.

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