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John Updike's A&P Essay

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John Updike's A&P


In a small town everything is familiar and often taken for granted. In John Updike’s short story, A&P, the main character, Sammy, discovers a beauty unlike anything he has ever seen in his small town before. Queenie’s simple magnificence so stuns him that he quits his job in her defense. The narrator says:

"Around they come, Queenie still leading the way, and holding a little gray jar in her hand. Slots Three through Seven are unmanned and I could see her wondering between Stokes and me, but Stokesie with his usual luck draws an old party in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice (what do these bums do with all that pineapple juice' I've often asked myself) so the girls come to me. Queenie puts down the jar and I take it into my fingers icy cold. Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream: 49¢. Now her hands are empty, not a ring or a bracelet, bare as God made them, and I wonder where the money's coming from. Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top. The jar went heavy in my hand. Really, I thought that was so cute."

The narrative voice in this selection clearly demonstrates the qualities of the main character, the narrator. Through the diction and tone contained within the narrative voice, it is obvious that Sammy is still in his teens and has a very mature perception of women.

It is first helpful to know that A&P is written in the first person and that the narrator is an objective narrator; that is, he relies on his observations and never knows what is going on in the minds of others. Sammy is also a participant narrator because he is in the story he is telling. Because Sam...


... middle of paper ...


...t.” Sammy has the right to be excited by something out of the ordinary, and it is clear in is tone that he is excited.

The use of a relaxed tone in a first-person narrative voice simplifies the language to a degree that suggests the narrator is quite young, probably still in his teens. His job at the A&P may be his first real working experience in his small town, and it is evident that he has adopted a certain mindset about the people who come in. When three unique girls (unique among each other and unique to their environment) enter the store in bathing suits and bare feet, Sammy is excited by the change in pace. He becomes so mentally involved with their existence without mentioning any sort of sexual attraction, that even the reader adopts an awe in Queenie and her followers. Sammy is young, but his behavior is most mature, and certainly admirable.


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