The setting of “A & P” is quite usual for a regular grocery store on a weekday. The town is north of Boston, five miles from the beach. Since the store is right in the middle of town, banks and churches and the newspaper store can been seen from the front doors. The day is Thursday, so there is not very much business. Outside, the sun can be seen on the pavement. The main character, Sammy, is almost nineteen years old and his coworker, Stokesie, is twenty-two and married. The manager, Lengel, is gray and teaches Sunday school. The setting in John Updike’s story, “A & P”, is used as a way to show humor and realism.
Updike uses the setting in a way to show humor. In the beginning, Sammy is ringing up an older woman’s groceries when three bathing suit clad girls walk in. Sammy, of course, forgets what he is doing momentarily, and rings up a box of HiHo crackers twice and the old woman catches the mistake (Updike 316). “She’s one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I know it made her day to trip me up,” Sammy thinks about the old woman (Updike 316). Updike also makes humorous descriptions of all the other customers. They are referred to as sheep because of the way they move about the store without anything on their minds except what is on their lists (Updike 318).
The setting also gives a sense of realism in the story, making everything described easily seen by a reader. Updike describes items in the store very vividly. As Sammy is watching the girls make their way through the store, they go in the “[C]at-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-rice-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft-drinks-crackers-and-cookies aisle” (Updike 317). The girls also pass a “Pyramid of Diet Delight peaches” (Updike 318). The reason the girls even make the journey into the store is for a can of “Kingfish Fancy...
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