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John Updike's A&p

Essay by   •  August 4, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,006 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,237 Views

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The late John Updike writes a coming-of-age story from the perspective of a young man named Sammy, in "A&P". Sammy works as a cashier at a local grocery store five miles from the coast; during one of his shifts he notices three girls, wearing only their bathing suits, walking into the store. Sammy is enamored by them as they walk around the store. As the girls are paying for a single jar of herring snacks at Sammy's register, the store manager strolls up and tells the girls their attire is not acceptable to be worn in the store. Sammy thinks the manager came down too hard on the girls and decides he is going to quit. Hoping the girls heard him, he takes off his apron and rushes out the door to the parking lot. When he gets outside, the girls have already gone; leaving him contemplating the harshness of the world. The narrative uses the first person perspective to set the story in an A&P grocery store somewhere near the Northeastern coast of the United States. The conflict between Sammy and his manager help illustrate the central idea: every choice may have its own set of consequences.

Updike uses a first person perspective to help illustrate the setting, as well as to narrate throughout the story. Updike gives subtle clues of the story's location throughout the narrative. During the beginning of the story Sammy describes where he works in the store, "I'm in the third checkout slot, with my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread" (Fiction100, 1167). Updike never comes out and says exactly where the story takes place, but one can deduct that the ideas of a checkout area and bread are synonymous with grocery stores. By using the word "I", this shows Updike's use of the first person perspective. As the girls walk around the store, many of the other customers stare at them; causing Sammy to think to himself, "I bet you could set off dynamite in an A&P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists" (Fiction100, 1168). Sammy's thought leads the reader to conclude the story takes place in a grocery store named A&P. As the story progresses, Sammy gives a little more detail as to where the A&P is located. Sammy states, "...our town is five miles from a beach, with a big summer colony out on the point, but we're right in the middle of town" (Fiction100, 1169). Sammy's statement leads the reader to conclude the story takes place near a beach, but it is not clear exactly what coast the beach is on. Updike does go one step further in trying to help clue the reader to where the setting lies when Sammy states, "It's not as if we're on the Cape, we're north of Boston" (Fiction 100, 1169). This statement sets the town somewhere in the northern coast of Massachusetts. It seems if this story were to take place five miles closer to the beach, the parameters of the conflict could be completely different. Perhaps the girls would not be reprimanded in such a way



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