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Essay about The American Male in John Updike's A&P

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The American Male
John Updike’s “A&P”, is a short story that relates an episode in the life of a teenage (male) grocery store employee, circa 1961. Many critics suggest that this story is told through the eyes of the main character Sammy, and not through those of the author, John Updike. The label placed upon teenage males in modern society is often that of an über sexist that views the female entity in only sexual lights. This assessment is supported in Updike’s story by means of diction and paragraph structure. In addition Sammy’s rash reaction to his manager’s chastising of three girls in the store is a result of his longing for the young women, rather than in his own best interest. Throughout the short story “A&P”, Sammy exhibits the stereotypical role of the modern teenage male, however this should not be looked upon as abnormal or unacceptable behavior, but should be regarded as human nature.
Since the advent of the word “sexist”, the label itself has carried numerous negative connotations, regardless of whether or not it has been applied to the male or female set. This idea of the modern teenager became initiated by the proliferation of visible sex symbols in the 1950’s such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and has since become increasingly more prevalent in American society. While the connotations may be well deserved, we as culture rarely seem to remember that most stereotypes are originated as a result of an observed pattern in the behavior of certain groups of people. John Updike is merely trying to embody the mind of the modern American teenage male in “A&P”, and not expressing his own opinion as to whether the thoughts going through Sammy’s mind are acceptable or not.
Updike effectively uses his style...


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...Sammy let his desire for the girls get in the way of rational thought he unintentionally made a decision that ended up becoming more unfavorable than imagined and not in his best overall interest.
John Updike’s character, Sammy typifies normal teenage behavior that at times may be crude but in no way should be considered deviant. While the admittance of such thoughts is considered a social taboo, the unprofessed acceptance of its cultural influence is not lost on those that are in the business of making money in our culture. As any economist will tell you sex drives our economy, whether through print, media or the current internet phenomenon sexual lure is used to sell everything from tires to chewing gum. Updike’s character is simply a representation of teenage thoughts in the 1960’s that have by and large gone unchanged since the arrival of the modern teenager.


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