Peyton Place

by admin - November 8th, 2013

I find Peyton Place to be a well written novel, but basically an extreme trying to fight another extreme. Metalious wrote Peyton Place with the stereotype in mind that the fifties was a peaceful, perfect time where families were tightly bonded and everyone got along. She saw the false side to this preconceived notion and did all she could to fight it, in the end not stopping that extreme, but simply creating a new one. Metalious’s work skews our perspective of the fifties, changing it from one of admiration to disgust, when in reality, we just must find room for a version in between the two.

The fifties was not an era of wonderful bliss and Metalious was right in her opinion of that. People forget about the racial and gender inequality and well as the issues with social constraint on people to all be the same. “Though the study also showed that in general preferred the decade that they came of age. It’s interesting to see that folks seem to ignore the bad things that happened during ‘their decade.’” ( Rice ) These were large issues that controlled how the people in the fifties lived their day to day lives. Blacks were severely limited to the types of things they could do simply because the color of their skin. Women were dumbed down and expected to play the part of the obedient housewife and loving mother but nothing more. Men were presumed to be the breadwinners, and the head of the house, never failing to provide for their families. Collectively, families were pressured to fit the cookie cutter mold that was presented to them. They were supposed to live in the suburbs, have a tight knit family with well behaved kids, go to church, and have their gender roles concrete in the house. The mold did not leave room for chaos or scandal of any kind, so people made superfluous effort to keep those things out of their lives.

When looking at these lives from an outside perspective we take pity on the people of the fifties, and we don’t understand why they would accept living like that. When in reality if that was what we were taught to do, we would follow it just the same. Peoples’ upbringings have a large effect on how they grow up and lead their lives, and people in the fifties were not exempt to this fact. That is the simple reason why they accepted these seemingly stringent rules and went about their lives this way. It may seem unfair and stringent to us, how a typical fifties family worked, but if one had always lived their life this way, it wouldn’t seem too difficult to continue doing so even if it is morally wrong in modern day.

Peyton Place fuels the fire for flipping our thoughts on the fifties upside down. The novel, once read, provides us a new and shocking look on the fifties. This time it is not a cohesive picture, it is more like a shattered mirror. Metalious provides her readers with many different types of scandals: sexual abuse, illegitimate children, suicide, giving us a whole new look at the fifties. We go from loving the fifties to hating its cruelty. We find the situations the characters are put in unfair and begin to hate the fifties, thinking that all of the cute home decor and adorable clothes are a sham and merely a coverup. Metalious’s novel travels to the other extreme, painting the fifties as a era of secrets, one that is filled with scandal, not happiness.

This opposite extreme in Peyton Place skews our vision, and changes our perception as well and not for the better. Sure these terrible things probably did happen and were covered up, which isn’t right, but those terrible things were not all that happened in the fifties. Peyton Place demonizes the fifties as being a coverup and the novel seemingly tries to take down every nice stereotype about the decade.

Both Peyton Place and the classic stereotypes of the fifties make valid points. The pop culture and like-ability of the family life in the fifties was real, as were the injustices and covered up scandals. Stereotypes are created for a reason; some chain of events similar to one another had to happen for them to come about and the ones about the fifties are a perfect case. The era contained both of the extremes, and was not more abundant in one over than the other. The fifties wasn’t a time of ample amounts of rape and scandal, but at the same time, it was not an era of utter perfection either. People need to take into account both extremes and derive a median from it. Either extreme cannot be taken as such a literal account of the events of the fifties; each must be taken with a grain of salt. Metalious tries to fight an extreme with her own version of one, in turn not stomping out the other, but simply creating her own. This creation only makes it harder for people to discern the truth about the fifties. But through careful inspection, and taking both assumptions into account, one can find a happy medium that satisfies an accurate definition of the fifties era.

— Sarah Y.

2 Responses to “Peyton Place”

  1. Erin Rice says:

    I agree with Sarah on the idea that Peyton Place was an extreme. There were many scandalous events in the novel, and I found it difficult to believe that all those events could happen in the same town. While I think the novel was interesting and allowed stereotypes on the 1950s lifestyle to be torn down, I think the novel would have better depicted the fifties if it had not been as extreme. Yet, if the novel was not as scandalous and Metalious had written it to be, its audience may not have been as great and, thus, the effect of her writing may have not been as influential.

  2. Courtney Mullin says:

    Reading Peyton Place really opened my eyes to things that happened in the 1950s. After usually thinking it was the perfect life, issues in this book such as suicide, illegitimacy, and sexual abuse prove that not everything is how it seems. Sarah makes a great point though that although it is not perfect, this novel also goes to an extreme. Most people had normal families and were probably in the middle of these two very different scenarios.