8 March 2013
John Updike was a prolific writer of novels, short stories, essays, poems, and children’s tale. In the early stories such as “A&P” John Updike uses memories from his childhood and teenage years. For the sort of “small” scenes and stories for which he quickly became famous for (Updike 233). Updike uses the elements of setting, mood, and characters to illustrate the theme of a rebellious generation in the short fiction story “A&P”.
The setting of the “A&P” takes place in a small town north of Boston around 1960. Sammy needs a sympathetic listener (or reader), someone who will grasp the meaning he is constructing for himself as he puts his actions into narrative order. Collapsing past and present in rapid yet reflective colloquial speech, Sammy tells how three teenage girls, barefoot, in bathing suits, came into the A & P store to make a purchase. As they move through the aisles, Sammy, from his work station, first ogles them and then idealizes the prettiest and most confident of the three. He names her, to himself, "Queenie"; and though he jokes with his fellow cashier about the girls' sexiness, he is quietly disgusted by the butcher's frankly lustful gaze as the girls search for what they want to buy. Worse is his manager's puritanical rebuke for their beach attire as Queenie pays Sammy for her purchase. Outraged that his manager, Lengel, has made "that pretty girl blush" and wanting to demonstrate his refusal of such demeaning authority, Sammy quits his job on the spot. Though the girls leave without recognizing their hero, and though his manager tries to dissuade him from disappointing his parents, Sammy feels "that once you begin a gesture, it's fatal not to go through with it" (196). He acts decisively, but the girls have disappeared from the parking lot by the time he exits the store. In practical terms, Sammy's action has gained him nothing and cost him everything, but his...
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