Coming-of-Age in Updike's A and P

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When a person comes of age, they experience a profound change or epiphany that leads to an inner growth, or new part of their life. In John Updike’s “A&P”, coming of age is a major theme. The main character, Sammy, transitions from idealism to realism. He also experiences the enlightenment from transitioning from ignorance to knowledge. Finally, Sammy changes from thinking of himself, to thinking of others. Sammy experiences coming of age. Sammy transitions from idealism to realism in “A&P”. His epiphany is foreshadowed when Sammy says “now here comes the sad part of the story” (Updike, 3). This quote foreshadows the events that lead up to Sammy’s change. Sammy is warned by Lengel about quitting his job. Lengel tries to help Sammy realize what consequences there are to quitting his job for the girls he does not even know, by saying “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your mom and dad”(Updike, 5). At this point, Sammy has an idealistic mindset, because he thinks he would be admired for quitting his job, and Lengel is trying to get him to see realistically. Sammy suddenly notes how hard his life is going to be after making the mistake of quitting. Sammy “[feels] how hard the world [is] going to be hereafter” (Updike, 5) since he quit his job. Sammy transitions to realism, and suddenly realizes that what he did was not heroic, and that he was being idealistic when he thought that quitting would have a positive effect on his life. Sammy grows from ignorance to knowledge, as well. The first evidence of his change is when Sammy begins to feel bad for the girls, when the McMahon, at the meat counter was staring at them. Sammy “began to feel sorry for them, they couldn’t help it” (Updike, 3). This is when Sammy shows sympathy for the girls, and seems to realize they are, in fact, human beings, rather than when he was being biased and derogatory. After Lengel warns Sammy about quitting his job, Sammy actually admits it is a bad idea. Lengel tells Sammy that he...
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