The Stepford Wives

Few books have achieved the enduring resonance and recognizability of Ira Levin's 1972 classic The Stepford Wives – whose title alone has become synonymous with blind conformity. Levin's empathetic portrayal of Joanna Eberhart's fight for survival in the seemingly-idyllic fictional town of Stepford, Connecticut reads as fresh today as when it was newly-minted.

Stepford sits alongside Rosemary's Baby as a go-to work of social horror – and indeed, the two novels – along with Levin's Sliver“helped popularize the sub-genre of feminist horror.” (Bustle, 2018)

Both a taut thriller, and a contemporaneous chronicle of the prevailing social currents of not just its own time – feminism, race, consumerism, technological encroachment – Levin characteristically rode ahead of the curve: “Stepford Wives depicted the backlash against feminism twenty years before Susan Faludi wrote Backlash.” (Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk)

All while helping cultivate (again, not atypically for Levin) multiple new or emergent sub-genres: 'dark suburbia', "domestic sci-fi," and "sci-fi satire" – with this piece even positing that the majority of "sci-fi satire" derives from Stepford itself.

Interestingly, though 2017's "Get Out" (which cited both Levin's Stepford and Rosemary's Baby as inspirations) is seen as having newly brought race to suburban horror, the subject's actually a key component of Stepford (that would be Levin's novel – not its 1975 film adaptation), as Levin was incorporating a contemporaneous play idea into the story, concerning a young black family's move to a reclusive white suburb. You can read more about this in our 2022 feature Building Stepford Wives, on the following pages: Hummingbird Circle, The Lady of the Lane, We Need To Talk About Joanna (see "Off Duty"), and Make Mine a Double (again, "Off Duty").

  • Levin loosely modeled the town of Stepford on his former married home of Wilton, Connecticut – Though he noted in 2002:“I had Connecticut in mind simply because I had lived in a ‘bedroom community’ there for a few years and knew the background. I’m sure there are similar communities outside every major American city, many more now than back in the seventies.”

  • In 2022 a Seattle gallery exhibited illustrations created for Suntup Press' editions (plural) of the novel. You can check the illustrations out here.

Our 50-page feature "Building Stepford Wives" (created to celebrate the book's 50th Anniversary) contains a Welcome-Wagon's worth of information on the book's inception:

(Above) Stepford Wives galley page

Click here to read an excerpt from "The Stepford Wives"