October 19, 2009

Betty Draper Reads About Vassar

The Group, Mary McCarthy's 1963 book about Vassar women was featured in Sunday night's episode of Mad Men. Betty Draper was briefly shown reading the book in the bathtub.

According to The Frisky, which spotted the reference (we were distracted by January Jones), "The Group is a subtly scathing portrait of a circle of educated, upwardly mobile New York society women who all went to Vassar College—at the time more of a finishing school than a bastion of liberal education – together."

In addition, The Awl writes: "Most regard the book as an early feminist novel, because it's an exploration of the follies and successes educated women experience when they are confronted with a society that only values their domestic abilities."

The Group was first published in 1963, the year that the show is currently set in. The book deals with feminism, suicide, lesbianism, and other issues, which raises lots of questions about Betty's character. As Frisky points out:

"Taking into account what we know of Betty’s past – traditional WASP upbringing, Bryn Mawr education, brief stint modeling in New York – it’s obvious she would feel a kinship to the characters in the book. But whether this is portentous of some sort of suicidal crack-up à la The Group’s main protagonist, the long-suffering Kay Leiland Strong, or merely a meticulous historical flourish meant to symbolize Betty’s literate sensibilities and pop-culture savvy remains unclear."

An even deeper look into Betty and the book can be found here.

Just another reason to watch Mad Men!

Image via Flickr.

Update: AMC's official Mad Men blog just posted some more information on The Group. Apparently, "Vassar College, incensed at the book's frank sexual content, lobbied to have McCarthy's degree revoked."

10.20.09 12:32am

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