Analysis of A&P by John Updike
Analysisof A&PbyJohn Updike
A&Pisa work of fiction (short story), written by John Updike in 1961,capturing the nature of the contemporary society, whose economy issupported by a middle-classcategory that is highly consumer based. First introduced in publiclimelightonJuly 22 by the NewYorker, theevents revolve around one rebel character who is against theconsumer-conditioned trends. Born in Pennsylvania in 1932, Updike isa Harvard University graduate, whose style of writing, that includesurbane and witty, boosted his chances of securing an editorialposition at the NewYorker.Since then, he has strivedto maintain the image of a consistent and fiction writer, and in1959, he published his short stories book, titled TheSame Door.In A&P,theauthor has used a set of symbols, characters, literary styles, andothers, to bring out the story’s meaning that includesthe coming to ageof the main character – a rebel against the system because of itstendency of conventional morality.
Thestory revolves around Sammy, who is an attendant of a local grocerystore called A&P located in New England. In the initial stages ofthe text, three young girls enter the store to do shopping and Sammyis awed by their personalities, attitudes, fashion style, and otherappearances. His attention is particularly fixated on one moreattractive lady and he nicknames her Quennie.She is beautiful, with confidence and “natural grace” (Updike).The name that he gives her is attributed to the fact that sheappeared to be the leader of the other two girls because of the wayshe talked and gave them directions. The mode of the girl’sdressing attractsattention, such that the author comments, “the store is in thecenter of the town, nowhere near the beach, where the girl’s attirewould attract less notice” (Updike). Expectedly, Lengel, theprudish and old manager of A&P store, openly admonishes them,warning them against revealing their cleavage and shoulders when theyfrequent public places (Updike). Despite this, Sammy encourages themto continue with their shopping as he sexually appraises them”(Updike). In fact, his fellow workmate, Stokesie,joins him in admiring them and deducing judgments based on theirouter appearance and imaginary personalities. He ponders through aseries of details based on the nature of the girls’ dressings, butto his surprise, Quennie makes a comment that contradicts a majorityof the impressions that he has already created in his mind (Updike).Literary experts believe that the views of Lengel act as the catalystto the story’s conflict, for when he expresses his opinion, whichinvolves a strong castigation against their dress code Sammy setsthe stage for the conflict. He openly rebels against his manager byremoving his apron and downing his tools, but to his surprise, thegirls do not even realize his heroic act since they have alreadyleft.
Thereare a set of literary styles and themes that have been used todevelop and deliver the meaning of this short story. For instance,the use of first person narration introduces some life and excitementfor the audience. The voice used is that of Sammy, and the authortakes us through the events and issues from the way that he (Sammy)sees and interprets things. He is deliberately poetic and casual,aside from being naïve but also intelligent. This is because,at only 19, he is able to create mental images and make deductions,such as describing the hairs of a girl as “oaky” and sunlight as“skating around the parking lot” the style of maintaining thespeech and thoughts of Sammy as real and colloquial, starting to talkusing phrases such as, “You know,” and “Really” aids inkeeping the language as natural as possible (Updike).
Thereis a major theme called “The Power of Desire,” that is effectivein delivering the story’s meaning. From the moment that the girlsenter the store, they attract the gaze of every male shopper, whichis an illustration of how the power that their sexuality earns them.Though they act nonchalant, they are clearly aware of what ishappening around them. It is this power that causes a conflictof opinion between Sammy and his boss, to the extent that he decidesto resign. There is also the theme of Girl-watching, and it isimportant because it sets the play in motion. Everyone in the store,including his boss, stares at the girls and each has their ownthoughts and opinions concerning their dress code and sexyappearance. The theme also draws the nature of the text’s conflictbecause it helps to divide the two sides, between those who areliberal with the dress code of the girls versus those who think thatthey are causing an unnecessary attention and should dress moreappropriately next time.
Variousliterary styles and themes have been used to develop and deliver themeaning of A&P,which includes the coming to ageof Sammy and his conflict with the demands of conventional morality.For instance, there is the first person narration, the theme of thepowerof desire, and girl-watching. Together, they help to show the clashbetween modernity and traditional values that are slowly fading away.
Updike,John. "A&P." 7 March 2017<http://www.tiger-town.com/whatnot/updike/>.
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