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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A & P

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“A&P”


By John Updike


John Updike uses the persona of an immature teenage boy to illustrate an ambivalent attitude towards women and the growth into adulthood. This illustration is a common theme among adolescent males in society today. Updike is able to relate this to his readers through a young, growing boy, Sam, who works at an A&P. Updike then tells about an incident in which Sam had been faced with that relates to his adolescent immaturity. When the incident is over, Sam has grown up


Three young girls walk into the A&P, inappropriately dressed in bathing suits. They walk up and down the aisles looking for things, all the while drawing stares. Sam shows off his immature side of an adolescent male through his thoughts and actions. In talking with his fellow cashier, Sam describes the girls in terms of physical appearance, commenting on size, weight, curves, and prettiness. Talks as though they were pieces of meat. He also makes provocative comments to his coworker. As he does this, he also watches the movement of the girls around the store. Sam follows their every move and mentions how he wants them to notice him and come to his register. This is Sam’s first stage of growth, from looking at women as nothing but possession to wanting them to notice him. He is gaining a sense of respect for the girls while developing a desire to be noticed by them.


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Sam’s second stage of growth is seen in his actions that take place when the girls approach his register. He barely begins to scan their item before his manager appears and scolds the girls about improper dress in the store. Sam was speechless and motionless the entire time until his manager had finished yelling, at which point he rings up the food and takes the money. Here, Sam is unable to react in front of the girls whom he just labeled inferior a moment ago. In his third transition to adulthood, Sam realizes that he had been looking down on women when he himself could not react in their presence. He decides to defend the girls to his boss after they had already left, hoping that one of them would notice and he would get attention for a heroic act. Sam decided to quit and walk out to make up for his lack of response earlier.


Sam’s final act of growth is in the realization that he had missed out on his chance to show the world that he could be a man. He realizes that his act was in vain and that there will be repercussions in his future. Through these stages of growth, the reader can sense Sam’s and realizations and changes through his many actions, most of which are conflicted with themselves. One moment Sam is judging the girls and treating them as material possession, and then next he wants them to notice him. When he gets that attention that he sought, we will not respond to it, feeling uncomfortable in their presence. Sam goes from treating women as inferior to treating them with respect and a sense of personal need.


In Updike’s tale, “A&P”, the persona of an immature teenage boy is used to illustrate an ambivalent attitude towards women and the growth into adulthood. Sam begins the story with an immature view towards the girls, describing them in inferior and suggestive terms. He then freezes at the chance to interact with them, followed by then chance to save them and stand up for them. Afterwards, Sam is ashamed for having done nothing and in a rash attempt to make things right, he quits his job in protest of his managers conduct. His final stage of growth into adulthood is when he realizes the consequences of his actions and is willing to accept them. He has also learned from this experience. Updike’s use of this teenage persona is indicative to the majority of teenagers in the world today and their development into adulthood. Many young adults will experience some form of transition similar to Sam’s. Updike is able to capture a very typical event and portray it to readers so that they may identify with it or at the very least come to understand this growth into adulthood.





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