Analyzing to Draw Conclusions: Assignment Questions

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Analyzing to Draw Conclusions and
MLA Integration of Outside Sources
Major Assignment #3

For this essay you will be reading a short story written by contemporary author John Updike called “A&P.” The story is narrated by a grocery clerk named Sammy, and on an initial read it might seem like not a whole lot happens. However, much like the Hemingway story we read at the semester’s beginning, a lot is happening “between the lines” and the story may be interpreted in many different ways. Further, unlike “Hills Like White Elephants,” there is not even a consensus on how to interpret the story, leaving you a lot of room to explore your own thoughts and ideas about this short narrative.

What is agreed upon is that the events of the story and Sammy’s internal comments all lead up to the ending action. Why Sammy does what he does at the story’s end, and how that moment becomes a turning point in his life is never revealed. Your task as a reader is to explore your own ideas on these questions.

But you will not be doing this alone. Attached to this handout is the story itself and three short articles written by critics. These three critics offer drastically different views on how we as readers should look at Sammy and how we should interpret his final action. In your paper you will be entering a dialogue with these critics in order to come to your own conclusions about this story.

Your assignment is as follows:

Write an essay in which you partly summarize and compare/contrast the three views offered in the attached articles. In doing so, you will need to directly quote from each of the articles at least once. Your paper must then expand upon these articles and offer your own interpretation of Sammy’s actions and what his story tells us about his character. This analysis should involve plenty of quotes from the story itself and relevant analysis of those passages.

You may agree with one of the critics, but if so, you must give additional reasons for believing the way you do. You may also completely disagree with one of the articles, and should offer evidence to show why you think the critic is wrong. More sophisticated papers will use both of these techniques simultaneously. You may even come to a conclusion that neither of these three articles touches on at all. Either way, you need to enter a dialogue with these articles and add something new to the conversation. This is accomplished by quoting directly from the story and analyzing the significance and ramifications of your quotes.

Things you may want to consider while making your argument:

• Sammy’s word choices
• Sammy’s age—which may not be exactly stated, you may have to speculate • The metaphors Sammy uses to describe people
• Significance of Sammy working in and the story taking place in a grocery store • The time period of this story—it takes place in the 1950’s. • anything else that strikes you as relevant as long as you are analyzing

If you think you have nothing new to say about this story, remember you have something that neither of these three critics do. You’ve been in a class for eight weeks now that has talked about consumerism and the mindset of teenage boys. You may find some freewriting will connect this story to these articles quite nicely.

This essay should be 6-8 pages, not including the Works Cited page. Refer to syllabus for proper formatting of the essay, and refer to your MLA handout and class notes for proper citation methods. Improper methods of MLA citation will affect the paper’s final grade.

November 8th is the due date for the first draft. Bring three copies for peer edit.

November 12th is the due date of the second draft to be turned into me.

November 19th is the due date for the final draft.

John Updike's "A & P"
Commentary by Karen Bernardo
Updike’s "A & P" tells the story of a checkout boy, Sammy,...
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