John Updikes A & P is a Coming of Age Story
John Updikes short story, A & P is about a 19-year-old boy, Sammy, and his short but decisive transformation from a carefree teenager to a grown man with the consequences of his actions weighing heavy on him in the end. On an otherwise ordinary day, the course of Sammys life is changed by an out of the ordinary experience which challenges him and compels him to make a rash decision that is based on what he knows in his heart is right for him. Sammy tells the story as if it is just another day while the life-changing event unfolds in a manner of minutes. He gives insight about the town by giving short character descriptions that are revealing, not only of each character, but also of Sammys feelings about the town, the people in it, and his personal perspective on the life that he is living there. Although the character descriptions paint a negative picture, the negativity has more to do with Sammys thought of living in this town with these characters for much more of his young life. It is clear that Sammy is more than ready to move on, beyond where his life is now. Sammy offers few facts about himself other than that he is 19 and lives with his parents in a small, conservative, New England town. Sammy points out that the town is not far from the location of the Salem witch-hunts and burnings in centuries past. The elusion to Salem leaves an image of a lingering puritanical cloud over the town and its people. The story takes place in the A & P grocery store in the heart of the downtown area where Sammy works as a checkout clerk. Sammys co-worker, Stokes, is 22 years old and married with two children. Stokes station in life represents a lifestyle that is not out of reach for Sammy, but certainly not the lifestyle that Sammy desires for his life although it is not clear even to Sammy what exactly the lifestyle that he desires is. Sammys boss, Mr. Lengel, who is a conservative and outspoken man, is a Sunday school...
Cited: Updike, John. A & P. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 560-64.
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