English 124 Section B14
February 12, 2014
Irony in “A & P”
The tone of John Updike’s “A & P” is ironic. Updike creates this tone by using Sammy’s vulgar diction, point of view, and situational irony. The author’s ironic tone on causes the reader to feel sympathy towards Sammy but progresses to cause an uncomfortable or even offensive response, followed by a feeling of ambivalence. In the end Sammy is not a hero but he is ambitious.
The first story element that shows the ironic tone of the story is the author’s diction. Updike chooses to give Sammy very vulgar vocabulary and uses many humorous analogies. Sammy refers to Stokesie being married with “two babies chalked up on his fuselage” (Updike 358), using the image of the body of an airplane as a phallic symbol to show Sammy’s vulgar diction. Sammy also compares Queenie to “a dented sheet of metal” (357) which is ironic because most people would not find dented metal to be attractive. Another instance of the author’s vulgar analogies is when Sammy says the dollar bill came from “between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla” (359) which shows the author’s use for humorous imagery to express Sammy’s mannerisms. Updike also describes the females with terms that could be found offensive. Sammy often refers to one of the girls as “the chunky kid” and also says one of the other girls has “one of those chubby berry faces” (356). Sammy also calls the customers a whole list of names, witch, bums, sheep, and pigs. This is another example of how the author uses language to express Sammy’s attitude. The author’s diction in this story causes the reader to be critical of Sammy or even offended by the language that is used. The word choice shows irony because Sammy has seemingly genuine feelings about Queenie but uses such crude and vulgar language.
Updike uses point of view to show the ironic tone of the story. Because the story has a first person point of view from Sammy’s perspective, the reader feels...
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