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ENGL 260- Essay on A & P by John Updike

Aug 28, 2023


Write a 5 paragraph essay about John Updike’s A & P, where you answer the following two questions.

  1. Why does Sammy quit his job?
  2. Does Sammy make the right decision for him in quitting?

Essay on A & P by John Updike

A & P is a short story by John Updike that was published in the year 1951 in the famous American magazine called New Yorker. The story became instantly popular due to its descriptive nature and relatable characters. The entire story takes place in a supermarket which allows the writer to involve a diverse range of characters. Therefore, the story revolves around a boy named Sammy, who is going through a transitional age between adolescence and adulthood. One day, overcome by his emotions and individualistic views, he quits his job at the grocery store. Thus, the story brings to the forefront the agencies that can turn an ordinary day into a life-changing moment where a person has to face repercussions for their decisions.

The entire story is narrated from the perspective of the protagonist. He is very observant and critical of the people that come and go into the store. Despite his observant attitude, he cannot be considered a reliable narrator since he makes stereotypical comments and seems unsure of his actions in the end. It is through the narrator’s description that the readers are introduced to other characters in the story. This narrative technique is useful and coextensive in several ways. Not only, does it provide necessary information about other characters but it also gives an insight into the mind of the narrator and his personality. This makes the motivations of the narrator behind leaving the job more prominent. In the story, the main factor that has a noticeable impact on the narrator is the entry of the three girls in swimwear. The girls became the center of attention in the store since it is not a common attire. The narrator describes the personality of each girl from their body movements and gestures.

The most remarkable characteristic of the story is the underlying clash between age, gender, and class which also gives it momentum. There is a generation gap between the store manager and the girls which makes their mentality and values very different. The store manager feels compelled to reprimand the girls for their attire because it goes against his propriety and the policies of the store. The store manager, Lengel is also a religious Sunday teacher which makes his character a moral and traditional authoritative figure. So chastising the girls for their attire came naturally to him and he failed to consider their feelings. At this age, the narrator identified himself more with the girls than Lengel and felt sympathetic towards them. Even though he understood that Lengel had the right to reprimmad them, he felt offended by it. Thus, the narrator’s decision to quit his job was to rebel against the strict societal norms and propriety standards that restrict one’s natural freedom of choice.

The narrator is going through a transitional age, where he finds hard to control his desires and fulfill the responsibilities that are now expected of him as an adult. In the heat of the moment, he decides to quit his job without considering its consequences. Unlike the girls, the narrator cannot depend on his parents to take responsibility makes for his actions. When the store manager wants him that his parents would disapprove, the narrator realizes that he will have a hard time without the job but his desire to impress the girl compels him to ignore it. In the end of the story, the narrator feels dejected when the girl leaves without acknowledging his brave act of sacrifice. As he looks back towards the store while standing outside, he feels the magnitude of his decision. He realizes he is not privileged like the girl whom he assumed to be rich because her parents throw expensive parties as compared to his parents.

Therefore, it can be concluded that the narrator’s decision to quit his job was impulsive and lacked foresightedness. The last statement of the narrator where is acknowledges that life will be filled with more challenges from now onwards. He had been harsh while judging the people in the store and called them “sheep” for going on with their lives despite anything. It is something he couldnot do even if it helped him to avoid problems. He decided to go against the flow of  standards and norms set by society which was heroic but not very wise

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