Irony In John Updike's A & P

942 Words4 Pages
Social Hierarchy & Irony in John Updike’s “A&P”

In Lawrence J. Dessner’s dissertation on John Updike’s short story “A&P”, he mentions that the main character Sammy was made “enviously defensive by his notion that the underclad younger shoppers inhabit a higher social station than his own.” However, while elaborating on what made the main character have such adverse thoughts on everyone else in the store, and such poor decision making, Dessner blames Sammy’s innocence. I believe that Sammy’s awareness of the “social hierarchy’- and, according to that, everyone else’s social hierarchy- is the underlying issue of the short story. I also believe Irony plays a part in this story, in that by trying to stand up for higher class, our main character
…show more content…
Dessner’s dissertation on John Updike’s short story “A&P”, he does not give enough credit to the girl’s position inside of Sammy’s mind. Dessner describes Sammy’s attitude as merely the “guise less narcissism of youth”, and attributes many of his shrewdest comments to “innocence or lack of knowing that could be him.” However, I believe Sammy felt how the way’s he did about society for deeper reasons. Sammy’s town was “five miles from a beach, with a big summer colony out on the Point”, meaning that they were the locals in the situation. Sammy went on to describe his stores position smack in the middle of town, with many dreary landmarks around to help the place fade into obscurity. To Sammy, many people in his town were stationary types instead of nomadic types, meaning they had been there, and would be there, for a while. Sammy even goes as far as to classify his family as lower middle-class, beneath the girls. This is why Sammy gets so swept up inside of his manager accosting the girls. When Lengel makes allusion to the girl’s attire being “indecent”, the following embarrassment probably hurt Sammy more than the girl. Sammy has already registered that, from Queenie’s view “the crowd that runs the A&P must look pretty crummy.” From that point on, Sammy was “enviously defensive by the notion that the underclad shoppers inhibited a higher social station than his own”- Sammy being a working class teenager. All the older people, who had wasted their lives away, sometimes even including his family and coworkers, were considered a waste, or even worse- sheep. The fact that Lengel felt enough of himself to confront this rich girl was enough to make Sammy
Open Document