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John Updike's A&p Character Aanlysis

Essay by   •  April 3, 2016  •  Case Study  •  1,418 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,716 Views

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Live While We’re Young is an award winning song by from the popular English-Irish boy band, One Direction. As soon as it is released in 2012, this single had top multiple charts around the world including the Billboard Hot 100 chart for several weeks. But what makes this song so popular among teens? The most sensible reason we can say is because it represents a perfect example of the kind of life that the youth wants to live. Living freely and hanging out with friends without the burden of responsibilities and stress of making money or in short the adult world. There may be a huge difference between the definition of decency by the young generation in this 21st century and the generation of the previous century, but the desire to be from his or her parents not only in the way they live but also their perspective of life. That is what John Updike, author of the well-known short story “A&P”, trying to give through his writings. The character of Sammy and the girls who were living during the 1960s represents the inner youthful rebellion towards the rigid social system during those times. Through a first-person narrative, John Updike manages to decipher Sammy’s rebellious and opinionated character and, Queenie's boldness by making them challenge the literal paradigm of a decent behavior during the 1960s, with their teenage immature behavior throughout his story A&P.

Sammy, a nineteen-year-old teenager who likes to analyze his surroundings, is introduced by Updike in this story as a very opinionate person. From the way the housewives dress, his the twenty-two-year-old coworker, Stokesie’s married life and when he said “policy is what kingpins [Lengel] wants. What the others want is juvenile delinquency” clearly shows that he is not happy when Lengel complained about how Queenie and her friends dressed (Updike 378). As the narrator of the story, Sammy successfully describes each and one of the girls in details, even though he is more interested in “The Queen”. Queenie is the informal name given by Sammy to the girl who “kind of led [the other two girls]” into the A&P (Updike 375). His imagination goes beyond what a normal person may have towards someone who they have only met, for instance, when he hears Queenie’s voice the first time “[he] slid[s] down her voice into her living room”, where he imagines “[her] father and the other man standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks” (Updike 378). However what Sammy’s trying to say is the bold girl who is standing in front of Lengel and him right now has the same fate as him. Brought up in the cold and inflexible lifestyle, where the adults force the younger generations to follow their rules and way of life. Going back to the time when this story was published, that is in the 1960s, there was a huge conflict between the long-haired, carefree hippies and their serious button-up suit parents and maybe that is why Sammy is so against the inflexible life that he has now. But his inability to express his rebellion directly in the form of actions, made him keep it in himself, which is the exact story that we are reading. We can say that Sammy really likes to reflect on anything that’s happening around him, especially when the three girls in bathing suits enters the A&P. Sammy, not wanting to have the same “pathetic” life as the people around him, has an inner rebellion towards the life that he has now. As if to forsake his one and only source of income besides from his parents, Sammy quits from being a cashier at the A&P even though Lengel reminds him that his parents would not be so happy about his actions. Updike’s writing style makes it easier for readers to imagine the actual situation happening in front of them, like while Sammy was taking off his apron, in his mind he still had the time to notice the customers heading to his slot “begins to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute” (Updike 380). Moreover, the way he describes them shows that he has an ego that he wants to protect by talking bad about the innocent customers. But right after he stepped out of the A&P, he tried to look for Queenie and the girls but they had already gone just as he had expected. Which makes him realizes the bumpy road ahead of him because of this hasty act. Possibly Updike tried to symbolize the actual situation that may happen to an actual teenager who is stuck between his or her desire to taste the freedom of adulthood but tried to be oblivious towards the responsibility that comes with it.

On the other hand, Queenie is a girl who’s bold enough to challenge the social structure of decency during that time when girls and women wear button up dresses and do not usually show off their skin publicly besides



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