Critical Perspective of John Updike's A & P
The late writer John Updike was a prolific in his works with over many mediums, including novels, poetry, literary criticism, and short stories. A year after the publication of what would perhaps remain his most recognizable work of literature in novel form he penned a short story for The New Yorker entitled A &P. The very brief short story relates the story of young cashier at very ordinary grocery market in a very ordinary suburb of Boston who seemingly experiences something he perceives as very extraordinary and life changing in its impact. Though a reader might interpret the short story to be a work of literary realism, “The Art of John Updike's A & P” published in Studies in Short Fiction in 1997 analyzes the work through the lens of post-structuralism. In that article Toni Saldivar maintains that the real interest and artistry of A & P lies in is allusion, executed with a certain sense of dramatic irony, to a widely known artwork by Botticelli known as the Venus de Milo.
Saldivar maintains that Updike’s short story was originally published in The New Yorker Magazine, and therefore written with a higher level expectation of reader understanding due to that publications reputation for drawing a more educated and sophisticated following (Saldivar 215). Saldivar attempts to establish the importance of art in the writing of John Updike, indicating that “Updike, for whom literature and art have been intertwined since youth, uses allusions to art and to art criticism to give the informed reader of A & P, the experience of dramatic irony” (215), as well as drawing parallels between Venus de Milo and the imagery called forth throughout A & P.
In order to maintain the supposition that Updike alludes to a famous artwork, Saldivar sets about establishing a credible link between the author and his interest in art. He maintains that Updike, as the son of educated parents and himself a Harvard and then Oxford graduate who...
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