A&P Essay

“A&P” has a universal and somewhat timeless appeal, and in many ways it is as fresh now as when Updike first wrote it, over half a century ago.

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(Updike himself married in 1953 at the age of 21, while he was still in college.) Also, it might strike a contemporary reader as odd to find two young men working at the cash register in the store. In those days, however, there were fewer women in the workforce than there are today.

Women usually left the workforce when they got married and had children.

(In 2010, the figure was 58.6 percent.)Another notable detail in the story is Stokesie’s apparent desire to stay with the A&P company and build his career there. Point of view in a work of fictionrefers to the character or characters through whose eyes the story is told.

In those days, it was more common for people to stay with one employer throughout their working lives than it is today. society, in this view, was quiet and stable in that period, following the turbulence of the 1930s and 1940s. The narrative technique Updike employs in “A&P” is called first person narration, which can be recognized by the use of the first person pronoun, “I.” In other words, the story is told through the point of view of nineteen-year-old Sammy.

His remark “They didn’t even have shoes on” shows how struck he is by their near nakedness.

A&P Essay

He is particularly attracted to the leader of the three, whom he dubs Queenie, carefully noting her long white legs and the fact—no doubt every erotic—that she has her shoulder straps down, which leaves an exquisiteexpanse of bare flesh from just above her chest to her neck, which he describes as “this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light.According to government statistics (available from in 1960, 37.7 percent of women age 16 and older were in the workforce.This figure rose rapidly to 43.3 percent in 1970, 51.5 percent in 1980, and 57.5 percentin 1990.I mean, it was more than pretty.” In other words, he is aroused by the sight, and, more than this, it is likely that he is not content simply to admire from afar.When she reaches the cash register, he notes that there is no ring on her finger, and one can just imagine him calculating his chances with her and trying to figure out a way in.So in a way he’s saying hold off to all this, and he’s in a kind of limbo.But he does feel, yes, that the world, the world does not forgive easily. He has become a quitter, a quixotic quitter, you could say.” Updike also comments on the story in a videointerview with Donald M. He describes Sammy as “a typical well-intentioned American male trying to find his way in the society and full of good impulses.” He also notes that, as shown by what Queenie buys and how she talks about her parents, she is of a higher social class than Sammy, so the story takes on the element of “blue-collar kid longing for a white-collar girl.” This “element of social inequality” had Updike wondering to what extent Sammy’s “gesture of quitting has to with the fact that she is rich and he is poor.” (Taking up this point, most readers would likely think that given Queenie’s higher social class, and her awareness of it, she would be unlikely to beinterested in a mere grocery store clerk, although Sammy, optimistic as young men tend to be when pursuing a girl, likely does not realize this.) In this interview, Updike reiterates the notion that Sammy will find life hard after this incident becauseit will be known in this small town that he quit his job, and people will not admire him for it.On the contrary, Sammy has long been fed up with his job in the store.He has been working there a long time (as shown by his intricate knowledge of it and of everything that goes on outside the store window) and does not enjoy it.(1984) comments that Sammy’s reaction to Lengel’s chiding of the girls “is the reflex of the still uncorrupted, of the youth still capable of the grand gesture because he has not learned the sad wisdom of compromise” (p. There is an “undertone of sorrow” in the story’s ending, because not only have the girls disappeared, but in their stead Sammy sees a young mother screaming at her children as they complain about not getting candy—“a much commoner refrain to the heady tunes of wishful American romance,” Detweiler comments.Corey Evan Thompson, in (Summer 2001), argues that Sammy does not quit because of the incident with the girls.

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