Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Review: Peyton Place (novel)

By Grace Metalious

We had to read Peyton Place for my Sexuality in America class. And you know how that usually goes: you hate the fact that you must read said book and so you dislike the book and desire to throw it in a fire. Well as it turns out Peyton Place is actually quite good.

As you may or may not know, it was really scandalous when it came out but nevertheless extremely popular. I thought, scandalous in the 50s, probably not so shocking now. But actually, it's quite shocking indeed. There are in fact pretty explicit sex parts, and pretty explicit violence, but most of all just the things that happen are kind of disturbing and for me unexpected. You've got a 16 year old girl raped by her step-father (apparently Metalious originally wrote it as her real father but her publisher made her change it) and then getting an abortion, and a couple people dying in gruesome ways.

The favorite quotes of the 50s and 60s were as follows:
Rod, the rich playboy, takes Allison (a "nice girl") to the school party, but goes for a make-out session with mill girl Betty in his car - until Betty says: "Is it up, Rod? Is it good and hard? Then go and shove it into Allison McKenzie!"
Connie, the sexually repressed dress shop owner (Allison's mother) goes for a midnight swim with Tom, the virile high school principal, who tells her, "Untie the top of your bathing suit, I want to feel your breasts against me when I kiss you."

Now, which one do you think was popular among young men, and which among young women? The class was split evenly in its guessing, but there is a correct answer.

The scene with Connie and Tom having sex for the first time seemed to me to be bordering on date rape, and I was really uncomfortable with it. He's supposed to be getting her over her false repression when he knows she really wants sex/love but... it wasn't cool.

Basically the novel is lashing out against the norms of the time. Funny how some of those are trying to make a comeback.

Grade: B

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