John Updike's short story "A&P"

Essay by ChelzortronUniversity, Bachelor'sA, May 2009

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The events of John Updike's short story "A&P" are experienced through theperspective of the main protagonist, Sammy, a naïve teenager living in an Americansuburb during the 1950's. Updike's use of the first person narrative is very effective ingiving the reader immediate insight into the psyche of Sammy as well as recanting thesetting and social climate in which Sammy dwells. In fact, the very first encounter thatSammy engages in, as the story unfolds, foreshadows his general attitude towards peopleof an older established generation. "She's one of those cash-register-watchers, a witchabout fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I know it made her day totrip me up." (230). By referring to the store's patron as a " witch" and stating that he wasaware of her trying to prove him wrong, Updike presents his narrator as very critical anduntrusting of the elderly customer without any justifiable reason for his prejudice.

TheA&P has morphed into a literary microcosm of American consumerist society and itsinhabitants, the various typical groups that encompass 1950's suburbia.

The story begins as Sammy breaks the monotony of his job at the A&P to describein great detail three young girls whom have entered the store. "With the straps pushedoff, there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her,this clear bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dentedsheet of metal tilted in the light." (230). Updike's opening paragraphs immediatelyenable the reader to view the world as Sammy does, admiring three young girls the wayhe might admire a 1950's American automobile, describing the girl's anatomy like that ofa car. Arguably, Updike uses Sammy as a vehicle to portray an undercurrent of youthfulrebellion in American society. It is also interesting to note...