Fiction Analysis of a&P and the Lesson

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The theme of desire has been portrayed in many novels and stories. Perhaps the most well-known depiction of desire can be found in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, a snake tempts Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge after he convinces them that they will gain God’s knowledge of good and evil and be protected from death. Despite God’s word to not eat of the fruit, Adam and Eve did so anyway. Surely, this story portrays temptation; however, beyond the theme of temptation lays the theme of desire. Knowing it was wrong, Adam and Eve ate the fruit because they had the desire for what the snake promised them. Similarly, Toni Cade Bambara and John Updike also display the theme of desire in their short stories. In “The Lesson” by Bambara and “A&P” by Updike, character, setting, and point of view are utilized to project the theme of desire. Though “The Lesson” and “A&P” take place in vastly different environments, a ghetto in New York and a quaint New England sea-side town, respectively, little separates the symbolic meaning of the setting. The protagonists of both short stories really have no yearn to be in their current surroundings. Sylvia in “The Lesson” describes her neighborhood as foul smelling. It was so bad “you couldn't halfway play hide-and-seek without a goddamn gas mask” (Bambara 1). Likewise, Sammy in “A&P” compares the costumer at his checkout lane to a witch. Within the first few paragraphs of both stories, one can tell that both Sylvia’s and Sammy’s atmospheres are not what they wish. Both the ghetto in which Sylvia lives and the grocery store in which Sammy works symbolize misery. Through the tone of the characters, one can gather that neither is happy and they wish for something greater. Without these particular settings that Bambara and Updike chose, the stories would have no meaning. For instance, if Bambara set Sylvia in a prestigious and wealthy neighborhood, there would be no narrative. “The Lesson” then...
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