Analytical Essay On A&P By John Updike

Analysis Of John Updike's A&P Essay

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John Updike's story "A&P" talks about a 19-year old lad, Sammy, who has a job at the local grocery store, the A&P. Sammy works at the register in the store and is always observing the people who walk in and out each day. On this particular day that the story takes place, Sammy is caught off guard when a cluster of girls walk into the store wearing just their bathing suits. This caught Sammy's attention because the nearest beach is five miles away and he could not figure out why they would still be in their suits. Sammy continues to overlook the girls in the store throughout their endeavor to pick up some item's that they were sent in for. While they are wandering around the store Sammy watches the reactions of other customers, is yelled at…show more content…

She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun seems to never hit, at the top of the backs of her legs"( Updike 596). Once Sammy finished his portrayal of the girl he noticed he had a item in his hand and could not figure out if he had rang it up or not. Sammy proceeded to ring up the item which he had already done, and got himself in trouble with a customer who proceeded to yell at him. Sammy's immaturity can be explained here because he let the presence of the girls interfere with his work. Once the woman was gone Sammy went on to describe the other girls. He says, " there was this one, with one of those chubby berry-faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose, this one, and a tall one, with black hair that hadn't quite frizzed right, and one of these sunburns right across under the eyes, and a chin that was too long- you know, the kind of girl that other girls think is very "striking" and "attractive" but never quite makes it, as they very well know, which is why they like her so much" (Updike 596). As you can see, Sammy shows his immaturity by going on a tangent only to describe the physical attributes of the girls and does not seem to care about anything else.
There is a sudden change in Sammy's attitude toward the girls throughout the story. At first, Sammy and his friend's he work

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"A & P" Updike, John (Hoyer)

The following entry presents discussion of Updike's short story "A & P."

Often depicting middle-class, Protestant America, Updike's short fiction focuses on the feelings of loneliness and isolation that lead the "common man" to seek some form of higher truth or ultimate meaning. "A & P" represents one of Updike's most successful coming-of-age narratives; the story articulates a teenaged boy's sudden awareness of the split between his inner feelings and society's values. Like much of Updike's fiction, "A & P" first appeared in The New Yorker before being published in the collection Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories (1962).

Plot and Major Characters

"A & P" is narrated by Sammy, a nineteen-year-old boy who is a cashier at a local A & P grocery in a conservative New England town during the summer tourist season. When three adolescent girls enter the store wearing only their bathing suits, Sammy is mesmerized. He describes the appearance and actions of the girls with elaborate detail, observing that something about their demeanor suggests a remote, upper-class lifestyle that contrasts with his own. As the girls prepare to make their purchase, the store manager reprimands them for what he perceives as their indecent appearance. Hoping the girls will notice his chivalrous gesture, Sammy abruptly quits his job in protest. Realizing that he might later regret his impulsive action, Sammy nevertheless follows through with his decision to quit, and walks off the job. By the time he walks outside into the parking lot, however, the girls are already gone. The story ends on a melancholy note as Sammy reflects upon "how hard the world was going to be for me hereafter."

Major Themes

"A & P" concisely sets up oppositions between several motifs: the individual versus the collective, conservatism versus liberalism, the working class versus the upper class, women versus men, and consumerism versus Romanticism. Interpretations of "A & P" depend to some degree upon the reader's understanding of the reason for Sammy's hasty decision to quit his job: some argue that he is truly rebelling against the disparagement of the young women by the Puritanical manager, while others feel that he quits due to misguided self-interest, in hopes that the girls will notice him. Critics have often viewed Sammy's gesture as quixotically romantic, since he gains nothing through his decision except the loss of his job.

Critical Reception

"A & P" is one of Updike's most anthologized and most popular stories. While the narrative style of the story has been widely acclaimed, critical opinion is split between those who declare the piece a work of genius and those who find it devoid of profound content. Much critical discussion has focused on the significance of Sammy's actions: while many reviewers interpret his behavior as admirably honest and authentic, some argue that his inappropriate judgement of his town's standards leads to his isolation and loss at the conclusion. Commentators have found possible literary sources for the story in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," Joyce's "Araby," and Emerson's "Self Reliance."

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