English / A&Amp;P Becoming And Adult

A&Amp;P Becoming And Adult

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Autor:  anton  21 December 2010
Tags:  Becoming
Words: 876   |   Pages: 4
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Becoming an adult

In his short story, “A&P”, by John Updike, the main character Sammy has transformed into a man prepared to make the next step in his life, the adulthood. The young teenager is a clerk at a local grocery store who encounters some unusual customers that end up affecting his entire life. Moreover, the author uses imagery, conflict, and dynamic character to convey the transformation of a teenager into a man, setting his own rules and believes.

From the beginning, the narrator who is also the protagonist starts with descriptive imagery to help the audience understand how the adolescent mind is working. Sammy describes in great details the three girls that walk in the grocery store he is working at. The first one seems like “a chunky kid, with a good tan” wearing a plaid two-piece bathing suit. He surmises the suit is new because “the seams on the bra were still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale.” Following her is a taller one with “sunburns right across under the eye” and “a chin that was too long.” The Queen, as Sammy christens the third girl, who is not as tall as the second one and as chunky as the first one, is “more than pretty.” She wears dirty pink bathing suit with a little nubble all over it. Sammy is astounded by the fact that she has left her straps fall over her shoulders making her top hanging lower, exposing a rim of white skin around her chest. Walking on her “long white prima-donna legs” holding her head so high her neck, she is obviously the leader of the group. Sammy’s narration is full of imagery to better illustrate the grounds for the astonishment of the local people. None of the girls has even shoes on. Furthermore, the author, through the eyes of the main character, gives an idea of the local shoppers. He refers to them to as “sheep” and “houseslaves” who “begin to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute” trying to avoid Sammy’s register where girls are checking out.

In addition to the imagery the reader follows the progressive development of Sammy’s character. In the beginning he acts like an immature kid as he describes the girl’s appearance, behavior, and his impression on them. He envies Queenie’s personality and her leadership. Just like her, he desires purpose and meaning in his life. He realizes the need of a life outside of the A&P and outside of his parent’s house. Obsessed by this dream and annoyed by the way the girls are treated he makes a decision to quit his job, something he would never consider before seeing the young ladies. He hopes to be recognized as a hero by them, thus attract their sympathy. Moreover, Lengel, the manager of the store and old friend of Sammy’s parents, tries to stop the young man from conducting such an irrational act. He likes the boy and wants to protect him and his parents; “You don’t want to do that to you Mom and Dad” and “You will feel that for the rest of your life.” Sammy knows that the old man is probably right but he also believes that “once you begin a gesture it is fatal not to go through with it.” Sammy acts like and adult who realizes the cost of the actions he is taking. As he saunters out of the electric door looking around for his girls, he notes “they are gone, of course.” The author gives the impression that the character expected that. Sammy now understands what he has done and “my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world is going to be hereafter.” Even though he sees the harsh reality he knows he made the right choice by stating: “Now here comes the sad part of the story…but I don’t think it’s so sad myself.”

Another element used by Updike in this short story is the conflict. The reader first witnesses the internal conflict Sammy is undergoing. He visualizes Queenie’s parents sipping martinis and eating “herring snacks on toothpicks on a pig plate”, while at his parent’s house lemonade is the proper drink unless a more “racy affair” calls for Schlitz in tall glasses with “They will do it every time” cartoons stenciled on. Sammy sees the girls at a higher social state than his middle class upbringing. He decides he wants more from life than working at A&P waiting for that sunny day thirty years from now when he will be promoted. Besides the internal conflict, there is an external conflict between Sammy and Legel. Sammy, a nineteen year old teenager, and Legel, a middle age Sunday school teacher, have different view on girl’s appearance and behavior. Legel is more conservative, representing the rest of the society, while Sammy and the girls represent the new age.

In conclusion, the author narrates the leap Sammy makes from an adolescent, into a man prepared for the rough road that lies ahead. Through the use of literature elements like imagery, conflict, and dynamic character Updike makes the reader a part of that realization.

Works Sited:

Karszner&Mandell. “Literature” Heinle, Thompson Corporation 2004

Updike John, “A&P” Feb 25, 2006


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