What Peyton Place Did

by admin - November 20th, 2017

By Jenna Goodreau

In Ardis Cameron’s 1999 introduction to Grace Metalious’ best selling novel,

The original cover of Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Peyton Place, she discusses how controversial the novel was at the time of it’s release. Cameron described Peyton Place as “the overt pleasure of millions of Americans who saw in the novel scenes from their own lives as well as a graphic story against which to measure them” (page ix). Peyton Place, much like Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (2011), was the kind of novel that people could not stop reading, but would keep hidden and not read in front of other people. The main reason for this secrecy is that the novel included many scandals like teenage pregnancy, abortion, suicide and rape that were rarely, if ever, mentioned in fiction at the time. One source, talking about Peyton Place, claims that “The name itself is synonymous with deceit and vice” (Clark).

Metalious lived in a small New Hampshire town, much like the one she wrote about. Her novel challenged the perception that most people had of New England towns at the time. Although they were viewed as perfect and ideal places to live, they had their scandals even if they were not talked about. The novel opened people’s eyes to the fact that incest, rape, abortion, etc. could be happening within their own communities and they are problems that should be addressed. However, many critics at the time bashed on the novel, calling it “degrading, disgusting, sordid, lurid and stinking garbage” (Sentinel Source). This is ironic, considering how popular the novel was. The novel, despite its success, was also banned from many libraries around the country, because people were “disturbed” by the realities that were brought to light when they read the book.

Peyton Place was one of the most popular, if not the most popular, novel of the 1950s. In her introduction, Cameron says that “In an age when the average first novel sold two thousand copies, Peyton Place sold sixty thousand within the first ten days of its official release” (page vii). About one in every twenty-nine Americans owned the novel and it was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. The novel was also turned into a television series, it began in 1964 and ended about 5 years later. It was reported that the show had “a viewing population of 60 million, or one in three Americans” (Cameron page xvi). There was also a film created based on the novel, and it came out in 1957. People today are still reading the book, and it can tell us a lot about how opinions on “scandals” have changed. Today, reading about incest, suicide and abortion is less shocking, since they are very talked about topics in our society, and they occur all the time. It will be interesting to see how people in the future view books that we find scandalous today.


Metalious, Grace. Peyton Place; with a new introduction by Ardis Cameron.
Lebanon: Northeastern University Press, 1999. Print.

Richardson, Rachel. “‘Peyton Place’ Shockingly Revealed Life, by Rachel Richardson.” SentinelSource.com, 23 May 2004. Web.

Randall Clark. “Peyton Place.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Gale, 2013. U.S. History in Context, Web.

“Biography.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/name/nm0582374/bio.

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