No Shoes, No Feminity In John Updike, A & P

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No Shoes, No Shirt, No...Decency? Written in 1962 by John Updike, A & P tells the story of three girls in swimsuits who walk into a grocery store and are forbidden to return until in “decent” clothing. The girls are portrayed as rebellious, immodest, and aloof. However, upon closer examination, it can be determined that the girls are not at fault. It is society’s view of teenage females and a manager’s personal agenda which are wrong. To begin, the narrator states that the girls are causing a scene. Everyone in the market, including employees, are staring at them. Usually, women who come to the store from the beach “put on a shirt or shorts… before they get out of the car into the street” (Updike, 1962). But, these are “women with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs and nobody, including them, could care less” if they did not cover themselves anyway (Updike, 1962). Thus, it is evident that the girls…show more content…
He says that Lengel “hides all day” behind “the door marked manager” (Updike, 1962). When he notices the girls checking out, he tells them they cannot wear swimsuits in his store. This is problematic for several reasons. First, it shows that Lengel decides who can wear what in his store. He is not patrolling the aisles looking for people in violation of the “dress code”, but tucked away in his office only to emerge when he wishes. If and when he leaves his office he sees someone “breaking the rules”, he confronts them--and only if he decides their outfit is improper. Second, he approaches them when they are about the leave. Why do this unless the goal is humiliation? If he had talked to them when they entered, the confrontation would have been more understandable. But to approach girls who are buying one item and about to complete their transaction is not only rude, but also a trivial display of power. The girls are not at fault--the manager, who is power hungry and makes his own rules,
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