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Essay about Grace Metalious' Peyton Place

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Grace Metalious' Peyton Place


Unlike many other romance novels, Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place has aroused a plethora of academic debates ranging from the aggressive promotion of the author’s image to the themes contained within the actual narrative. Arguably the most interesting, yet elusive, theories on Peyton Place are centered on how the novel fits into the social fabric of postwar America. Many average readers, as well as literary experts, are prone to identify elements in Metalious’ novel which suggest that this cross-dressing housewife was out to subvert dominant 1950s ideology, while others will argue that the book can do nothing else but support the dominant patriarchal structure under which it was created. A closer look, however, reveals that both of these hypotheses may be true.

The avenues by which Metalious approaches the issues of single life, marriage and children, and sex shatter the dichotomy of subversiveness or perpetuation of dominant social values. Though Metalious seems to take a liberal stance in one area, she is largely conservative in another. Jane Hendler, in her article entitled “’Damned and Banned’: Female Sexuality in Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place,” writes that although “Peyton Place registered a growing discontent with middle-class conformity and restriction,” it still “perpetuated conservative attitudes and patriarchal structures” (187). The existence of dual ideological agendas in Peyton Place is not surprising when one considers the trends found in other printed materials of the 1950s. Joanne Meyerowitz, after pondering Friedan’s Feminine Mystique decided to do her own sampling of mass-circulation magazines from the postwar period. Contrary to Friedan’s conclusions, Meyerow...


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...fits in with the other ideologically conflicting printed materials of the time period. By vilifying single women alongside a positive young female character who declares she will never marry and by using this heroine to take a liberal stance on marriage and family while simultaneously showing sexuality in a conservative light, Metalious seamlessly plays the role of an ideological double agent.


Works Cited

Hendler, Jane. “’Damned and Banned’: Female Sexuality in Grace Metalious’s Peyton Place.” Best-Sellers and Their Film Adaptations in Postwar America.

Metalious, Grace. Peyton Place. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1956.

Meyerowitz, Joanne. “Beyond the Feminine Mystique: A Reassessment of Postwar Mass Culture, 1946-1958.” Journal of American History 79.4 (1993): 1455-1482.

Radway, Janice. “Reading the Romance.” (1991).


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