July 28, 2005
Conformity and Individuality in a Small Town
John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1932. His father was a high school math teacher who supported the entire family, including his grandparents on his mothers side. As a child, Updike wanted to become a cartoonist because of The New Yorker magazine. He wrote articles and poems and kept a journal. John was an exceptional student and received a full scholarship to Harvard University. At Harvard he majored in English and became the editor of the Harvard newspaper. Upon graduation in 1954, he wrote his first story, Friends from Philadelphia, and sent it to The New Yorker. This started his career and he became one of the great award winning authors of our time.
In a transcript of a radio interview with Updike, he says his duties in the early works were to "describe reality as it had come to me, to give the mundane its beautiful due." (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/july-dec03/updike_12-29.html retrieved 7/27/05) Updike felt as though ordinary middle-class life was enough to write about and that there was enough drama, interest, relevance, importance, poetry in it. The A&P' written by John is about middle and, presumed, upper middle class life and the characters are ones that people can easily identify with. There is the teenage boy, Sammy, working a meaningless job ogling scantily clad teenage girls, a married man with children, Stokesie, doing the same, an uptight store manager, Lengel, who, in this case, is a man but could have easily been a woman in today's society, the insecure teenage girls, who Sammy nicknamed Plaid' and Big Tall Goonie-Goonie, following around their "leader," the leader herself, Queenie, who is confident in her socioeconomic status as well as her appearance, the housewives who cover themselves in public, the cash-register-watcher, the 'sheep' or the other people in the A&P doing their grocery...
Bibliography: Porter, M. Gilbert.: "John Updike 's 'A & P ': the establishment and an Emersonian
cashier." English Journal 61 (1972):1155-1158.
Saldivar, Toni. "The Art of John Updike 's 'A & P. '" Studies in Short Fiction. 34:2
Wells, Walter. "John Updike 's 'A & P ': A Return Visit to Araby." Studies in Short
Fiction 30.2 (1993): 127-133.
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