Peyton Place


Peyton Place
In 1956, a woman from middle class Manchester, New Hampshire wrote a book that
shocked the nation. At 32 years old, Grace Metalious wrote the blockbuster novel

Peyton Place. It transformed the publishing industry and made the author one of
the most talked about people in the nation. Metalious wrote about incest,
abortion, sex, rape, adultery, repression, lust, and the secrets of small town

New England, things that were never discussed before in conservative America.

She interpreted incest, wife beating, and poverty as social failures instead of
individual flops. When Metalious published Peyton Place, the country was in the
grasp of a new wave of sexual panic. The book turned the "private" into the"political." The avant-garde disturbed the country and critics called the
book "wicked," "sordid," and "cheap." Canada declared it indecent
and made the importation of the book illegal. Parts of Rhode Island, Indiana,
and Nebraska followed suit arguing that the book would corrupt young minds.

Wealthy communities banished Peyton Place. To read Peyton Place was to read it
in secret and were sometimes discussed only among the closest of friends.

Everyone was reading it – college and high school students, college graduates,
mothers, wives, and even husbands and fathers. In 1956, a sexual act such as
sodomy, oral sex, and intercourse with another married person in most states was
illegal. Also, abortion was illegal, and birth control was unreliable and in
many cases, difficult to find. To many critics, Metalious’ book was not
scandalous because of its case in point, but because of the sexual pleasures
that were received and given by the female characters. Peyton Place begins with

Indian summer in 1939. It takes place in a very descriptive, postcardesque New

England town. The main story focuses on three women characters and their
underlying search for their identities as sexual women in small town America.

Allison Mackenzie is the bastard daughter of Constance Mackenzie who had an
affair with a married man. She illegally changed Allison’s birth certificate
and lied to the Peyton Place locals that her husband died. Connie didn’t want
any of the town folk to find out the truth that the father of her child was a
married man because she would become the town gossip of ridicule. She kept this
secret to herself, and only to herself until an argument between her and Allison
occurred when Connie thought Allison was having sex with one of her friends, and
so she lashed out the truth to Allison. As a child, Allison was always teased
about being childish, and not interested in boys, and always into books. But as
she grew up she was full of conflicting sexual emotions, and after graduating
high school, she left Peyton Place to pursue a writing career in New York.

Connie Mackenzie, to her neighbors, was a beautiful, young, widow that owned her
own thrift store. Many eligible bachelors Everyone had a desire for her and
wished to have her, until Thomas Makris, a teacher from New York City arrives
into town to take the job of headmaster at the Peyton Place grade school. Thomas
pursues Connie and terrified that he knows her secret, she avoids him. He shows
up at her house one night and persuades her to a date, which leads to him raping
her. They stay together and end up in marriage. As the third main female
character, Selena Cross is probably the most significant. She was the same age
as Allison. She lived in a shack with her little brother Joey, deranged mother
and alcoholic stepfather, Lucas Cross. She lived an abusive life with Lucas
drinking, beating her mother, beating her, and sexually violating her. He gets

Selena pregnant and she secretly gets an illegal abortion from the town doctor,
who forces Lucas to disappear from Peyton Place and never come back or everyone
will know what he did to his daughter. Selena works at Connie’s store and
becomes manager when her mother, stricken with cancer, commits suicide. In 1944,
during a snowstorm, Lucas Cross, now part of the U.S. Navy, shows up at

Selena’s house drunk and coming on to her. One thing leads to another and she
kills him, and her and Joey bury him in the sheep pen. Metalious based

Selena’s sexual abuse on Jane Glenn, a local girl who confessed in 1947 to
killing her father and burying him, with the help of her younger brother, in the
barn. Her mother died ten years before, and she told police that her father
threatened her, and had been

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