Devotion and Desire in Updike's A&P

Essay by cr1319College, UndergraduateA, April 2010

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Carlos Rocha

Ms. Yvonne Guerrero

ENG 1320.311


Devotion and Desire in Updike's A&P

Almost everyone has aspirations and goals that they want to attain sometime during their lifetime. One common goal is making more money, but wanting and desiring something are very different things. While wanting to make more money is a simple goal, the real desire behind it is more security and freedom. The power of desire speaks to peoples' subconscious, influences their actions, and ultimately directs their lives, as is used by John Updike as a theme in his short story A&P. Another theme explored in A&P is the mystery of others minds. As human beings, we are constantly making observations of others out of curiosity and the need to understand others. This need to analyze others is actually rooted in our need to evaluate and understand ourselves. Consequently, people make decisions based on their perceived mindset of others.

The narrator, Sammy, decides to quit his menial job because he wanted a better life for himself, although initially it was only to impress a girl. In the short story A&P, John Updike uses themes like the power of desire and the mystery of other minds to convey a young man's (accidental) realization of his greater goals in life.

Throughout the story, there is a major focus on Sammy's observations of others. Updike's uses these observations to make the reader feel as if though this could be their story, their thoughts, and their decision. Sammy seems to have most of the other characters figured out, except the girls in the bathing suits. The girls represent a true mystery of others' minds. Not until he actually hears one of the girls speak does he get a better sense of their background.