A&P by John Updike

Topics: Jealousy, Short story, John Updike Pages: 3 (1122 words) Published: March 1, 2015
James Mangan
AP English
Mr. Chesbro
12 February 2014
Supermarket Sorrows: Lessons Learned from “A&P”
We are jealous people. That’s just a part of our human nature: we want what we can’t have. Men always want better cars, better clothes, better women, you name it. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as they perceive it as being better than what they already have. People (chiefly teenage boys, it seems) will watch movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, seeing the obvious negative effects of a lifestyle of indulgence and excess, and still think to themselves “Damn, I’m missing out!” John Updike expresses this concept of jealousy, a concept so central to our humanity, in his short story “A&P”. Updike employs a casual tone and cavalier diction, along with the symbol of the bathing suit, to present his view that jealousy drives people to get what they want, in this case, freedom, but that our desires can often lead to disappointment. In a very deliberate fashion, Updike’s use of casual tone highlight’s Sammy’s priorities in a way that resonates with readers. Sammy, the narrator of “A&P” is a very laidback, casual kind of guy. He’s very conversational and readers get the impression that he’s a greased-up wise guy with an elbow on the jukebox and a toothpick in his mouth. This lackadaisical nature fully encapsulates who Sammy truly is. Updike first shows this casual tone in his first two sentences, writing, “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits. I'm in the third check-out slot, with my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread,” (Updike). Updike doesn’t sound, in this instance, like a stuffy, eloquent Harvard grad writing a serious piece to serious-minded readers. He sounds like a guy telling a story about girls to his friend over a couple of beers. He consciously employs this tone in order to strike an appropriate chord with his audience. Updike wants his readers to realize that Sammy is a cool, easygoing, nonchalant...
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