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Peyton Place Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Peyton Place explicitly describes diverse sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and violence in recounting the rise of a naïve and idealistic young woman writer. The name “Peyton Place” has passed into general American usage as a term for places and groups exhibiting similar conduct. The novel’s principal character, Allison MacKenzie, and her story reflect author Grace Metalious’ life and her own home town, Gilmanton, New Hampshire.

Shortly before Metalious published her novel, her interview with Hal Boyle was published. Reporters immediately invaded Gilmanton, aggressively questioning everybody. In reaction, Grace’s husband, George Metalious, lost his position as principal of a local school. Public retaliation included threatening phone calls and letters, a death threat, and persecution of her children.

After its publication, Peyton Place became a best-seller, attracting widespread condemnation as obscene. Metalious further enraged opinion by denouncing small-town bigotry and bohemian conduct. Her book was banned in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was blacklisted by the Rhode Island Commission. The Canadian Revenue Commission prohibited its importation as “of an indecent or immoral character.”

A heavily revised film adaptation in 1957 met Hays Code standards for general release. An even more heavily revised television series ran on network television from 1964 to 1969.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Allison MacKenzie and her friend Selena Cross are eighth graders in Peyton Place, an isolated New England town that thrives on gossip and scandal. Allison is the illegitimate daughter of Constance MacKenzie and a married man from New York, with whom Constance had an affair. Selena’s family lives on the wrong side of the tracks, and her stepfather Lucas makes sexual advances toward her. She develops a romantic relationship with classmate Ted Carter, while Allison experiences her first kiss with Rodney Harrington and embarks on a friendship with Kathy Ellsworth, a newcomer to Peyton Place. The school principal (another newcomer named Tomas Makris) is attracted to Constance.

Two years later, Constance and Tom are dating. Allison writes stories for the local newspaper, and her friendship with Norman Page becomes romantic. Selena is pregnant and convinces Dr. Swain to terminate the pregnancy because Lucas is the father. Rodney gets Betty pregnant; his father gives her money to have an abortion as well, but she leaves town, presumably still pregnant. Allison’s innocence is also shattered. Nellie Cross, who works as the MacKenzies’ housekeeper, is guilt-ridden...

(The entire section is 616 words.)