Grace Metalious' Peyton Place Essay

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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,
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In other words, Metalious’ novel fit into a larger 1950s picture of coexisting viewpoints that both undermined and supported prevailing beliefs relating to women, including marriage, children, and sex.

One of the first problematic representations encountered in Peyton Place is Metalious’ portrayal of women who have never married. While negative portrayals of such women may seem outrageous to readers today, they could not have shocked readers of the postwar era in which over 70% of all men and women married. Women who did not fulfill the rite of marriage were consequently in the minority. Metalious’ depiction of the character of Miss Hester Goodale is the harshest representation of this lonely marginalized group. When she is discussed by Allison and Norman, in spite of Allison’s reassurance that “Miss Hester won’t hurt you,” she lets herself imagine the aging, single woman as sinister and strange (Metalious 63). It is decided that “she is as loony as they come,” (Metalious 65) and possibly even a witch whom neighbors might overhear chanting as she stirs her witch’s brew (Metalious 64). Later in the novel, Allison writes a short story in which Miss Hester is a witch who keeps her dead lover’s bones in her cellar (Metalious 184). Furthermore, not only is the MISS Hester Goodale a crazy witch, but the town says that their broken-hearted neighbor is “only waiting to die” (Metalious 67), clearly without any valid reason

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