John Updike's A&P Essay

1080 words - 4 pages

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 Sammy is restrained in this manner, he is easily believable, and the reader can relate to him without much hindrance, and because he is there, he is a reliable source of information. Even though Sammy says, “I could see her wondering between Stokes and me,” he is still only observing, and he doesn’t know exactly what is happening in Queenie’s head. Almost everyone has a degree of psychic ability when it comes to reading someone’s face, so it is no surprise that Sammy “knows” what Queenie is thinking.

The diction of the narrative is clearly one of a young and informal person. The usage of “Queenie” as a name for someone he does not know, also shows that the narrator may also be a bit humorous. The names for her followers, “Plaid” and “Big Tall Goony-Goony,” further demonstrate this idea. Sammy say, “I take it into my hands icy cold,” and the less-than-perfect syntax adds to his informality. The people who buy pineapple juice (and apparently quite often) probably aren’t really “bums,” but because of Sammy’s character, he uses this word to describe the insignificant people who have just interfered with his infatuated observance of...

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