“A&P: Rise and Fall”
John Updike’s “A&P” is a prime example of how standing up for one’s morals does not always reap a reward. As a young writer, Updike witnesses several young girls in their swimsuits cruising the aisles of his local grocery and thus became the short story “A&P.” Sammy, a nineteen-year-old store clerk in a small New England town, quits his job over an issue of principles, an action that both changes and defines his character. Bikini clad young ladies become somewhat a rite of passage for our young narrator and protagonist, which leaves Sammy feeling at the end both triumphant and sad, both a winner and a loser. John Updike is an American writer whose preferred style is that of writing about his own limits or middle-class life - the mundane. Updike presents everyday happenings that he witnesses and lived and through his writings conveys to the world the ups and downs of everyday life. Updike shows that not everything we wish for can or will come true without consequences. In a 2003 interview, Updike remembers where the story of “A&P” originated. Updike states “I had seen several girls in bathing suits cruising the aisles and it was sufficiently startling that it stuck in my mind…girls in bathing suits and bare feet…all that sort of made, seemed to make a germ of the story” (29 December 2003, Online NewsHour). This is the beginning of the best-known short story of Updike’s career. The setting is a small town near Boston around 1960. Sammy, our narrator, is trying to clarify why he has impulsively quit his job as a cashier in the local A&P. He tells us how three teenage girls, barefoot, in bathing suits, come into the store to make a purchase. Sammy describes how they move through the aisles, first ogling them and then idealizes the prettiest and most confident of the three, naming her Queenie. Worse for Sammy and the girls is his manager’s puritanical response to their swimwear as Queenie pays Sammy for her purchase. Outraged that...
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