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Rebellious to Responsible in John Updike's A&P Essay

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The lives we live today encompass many moral aspects that would not have been socially acceptable fifty or more years ago. John Updike’s short story, A&P, addresses these issues of societal changes through a 1960’s teenager point of view. This teenager, Sammy, spends a great deal of his time working at a local supermarket, observing customers, and imagining where his life adventures will take him. Through symbolism and setting, Updike establishes the characters and conflicts; these, in turn, evolve Sammy from an observational, ignorant teenager, promoting opposition to changing social rules, into an adult who must face reality.
This short story, first published in 1961, stirs up controversy and still continues to be debated today. Although Updike intends for his writing to be simple and enjoyable, he also includes literary and cultural knowledge of the time period for readers to analyze more deeply (Saldivar N. pag.). As with A&P, Updike injects religious faith, which few Non-Catholic writers attempted during this time, in a seemingly effortless way. The supermarket A&P, the main setting of the story, was positioned “right in the middle of town” (Updike 983); a prime position accessible to all, although, generally this position was reserved for the town’s place of worship. In a way, Updike implanted this detail to be ironic. The supermarket in his story represented a “temple of modern consumerism” and was replacing a temple of worship (Wells N. pag.). To create a story that was relevant to the 1960’s, yet still encompasses issues society currently faces, demonstrates Updike’s genius ability to engage in the enthralling world around him.
The story begins through Sammy, the narrator, working at the local A&P supermarket. He not...


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..., 1994. Literature Resource Center. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.
• Porter, M. Gilbert. "John Updike's 'A & P': The Establishment and an Emersonian Cashier." English Journal 61 (Nov. 1972): 1155-1158. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 27. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.
• Saldivar, Toni. "The Art Of John Updike's "A & P." Studies In Short Fiction 34.2 (1997): 215. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.
• Thompson, Corey Evan. "Updike's A & P." Explicator 59.4 (2001): 215. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.
• Updike, John. "A&P." Thinking and Writing About Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001. 981-86. Print.
• Wells, Walter. "John Updike's `A&P': A Return To Araby." Studies In Short Fiction 30.2 (1993): 127. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.


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