The Plot

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Joanna and Walter Eberhart and their two children move from New York City to idyllic Stepford, where they find glamorous housewives who delight in waxing floors and cleaning ovens. Joanna discovers that the Men’s Association, led by a former audioanimatronics expert for Disneyland, disposes of the wives and replaces them with robots who have enhanced anatomies and reduced personalities. Neither this short novel nor the film that was made of it in 1974 was enthusiastically reviewed, nor were the made-for-television sequels, Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980) and The Stepford Children (1987). Despite unfavorable reviews, however, the story has entered public consciousness. “Stepford wife” has become synonymous with a woman who is subservient to her husband and contented with a narrow range of domestic interests.

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Walter, a corporate lawyer, joins the Men’s Association, much to Joanna’s annoyance. She hates the mindless housewifery of the cosmetically correct Stepford women and describes herself as a professional photographer interested in tennis and “the Women’s Lib movement.” She attracts another newcomer, Bobbie Mar-kowe, whose house shows no signs of the Stepford mania for orderliness, but when they attempt to organize a women’s group, they find no interest. Joanna meets several members of the Men’s Association, including the cold Dale Coba, the president, and Ike Mazzard, a renowned illustrator who sketches her throughout the evening.

Bobbie finds a kindred spirit in Charmaine, a tennis whiz with a keen interest in astrology. Charmaine, however, is soon changed into a Stepford wife, and she rips out her tennis court to replace it with a putting green for her husband. Bobbie is desperate to move away. Meanwhile, Joanna stumbles across an old newspaper that mentions a now-defunct Woman’s Club in Stepford. When she attempts to photograph the Men’s Association’s private headquarters one evening, a police officer tips off its members. One of the men leaves a tape recorder with Joanna, and as the first part of the book ends, she is recording her voice, for reasons that are becoming increasingly...

(The entire section contains 529 words.)

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