John Updike A & P Setting Analysis

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The Impact of Setting in John Updike’s “A&P” “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle--the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything)--were pretty hilarious” (Updike 651). As an average cashier at a plain A&P store in the middle of town, the protagonist Sammy is unaccustomed to customers in provocative attire. Queenie and her two friends (one chunky, one tall) are outcast in a setting of tremendous social conformity, and quickly catch Sammy’s watchful eye with their unexpected bikinis. Unabashed in teenage ignorance, these three girls continue to shop for herring snacks, unaware that consequence is at their doorstep. As the store manager, Lengel, catches wind of the girls’ boisterous attire, …show more content…

Located in the center of town, Sammy’s A&P is five miles out from the beach; if any closer, the girls’ attire may not cause the same uproar Sammy witnesses. Unfortunately for Queenie, as Lengel finished quibbling with truck inventory, he decries the girls’ dress, noting “this isn’t the beach” (653). Queenie led a furious attempt to refute Lengel’s claim, stating “my mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks” (652). Her proclaimed innocence is futile, however, as Lengel denounces their behavior as characteristic of “juvenile delinquency” (653). Upon this decree, Sammy recognizes the girls hastily about to leave and announces to Lengel, “I quit,” following with “you didn’t have to embarrass them” (654). While quitting his job is not the most practical course of action, Sammy forcefully acts upon Lengel’s injustice in hopes Queenie will see his heroism. His attack on Lengel’s paternalism and embarrassment is to no avail for this hope, however; as Sammy follows outside, he is met by vast openness. Such a defiant act marks the descent from a small A&P to the expansive world, and discovers a new talent for the young adolescent; regardless of motivation, Sammy is willing to fight against wrongdoing - and rebel against established …show more content…

In observation of oppression, Sammy proves the surprising yet often discerned motivation of the teenager: dismantle wrongdoing and protect common peers (especially when desire is at the doorstep). Held within the confines of the store, Sammy discovers a longing for these three girls through the contrast of the background; without it, Queenie and her friends may remain confined and their indecency not captured. While most may oppose the teenagers’ apparel, Updike illustrates that adolescents are powerful; strength, fortitude, and discovery are instantaneous, even in The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. Ultimately, A&P is a cultural awakening; adults, guardians, and leaders must recognize that adolescents are vulnerable and passionate. Without support and understanding, teenagers are likely to make rash, abrupt decisions. On the other hand, teenagers ought to escape the confines of bland jobs and occupations, and open themselves up to a new world of opportunities and possibilities. The struggle of man, as adolescent, is epitomized in the final quote from Sammy: “my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter”

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