Satire In John Updike's A & P

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John Updike’s story “A & P” was written in 1961 and takes place in a small town in Massachusetts. In a supermarket named “A & P,” which is on the town’s Central Street and is across from typical small-town stores – “two banks and the Congregational church and the newspaper store and three real-estate office” (Updike 748) – a cashier-clerk named Sammy witnesses three girls walking into his store wearing bathing suits, and he recounts his perceptions of them, their actions, and how they contrast with his relatively bland setting. Since he objectifies these women throughout the story (using phrases such as “sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it” (Updike 746-7)), it could be suggested that “A & P” is a satire …show more content…

There are instances in which Sammy even admits to uncertainty about the details of his environment, such as when he says that Queenie “had on a kind of dirty-pink – beige maybe, I don't know -- bathing suit” (Updike 747). Another example is where he pontificates about some customers walking by the three girls by saying, “You could see them, when Queenie's white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed” (Updike 748). These quotes illustrate that Sammy was quite infatuated with the girls as well as cynical about the apparently bland setting of his supermarket, and thus serves as an unreliable narrator in terms of factual information about the story’s setting. What is so intriguing about Sammy’s narration, then, is that it is focuses more on his evolving ideals of freedom from his conventional surroundings than on strictly factual accounts of his job, the supermarket, or the three girls. His first vision of nonconformity is represented by the girls, who rebel against the aesthetic conformity of the supermarket. Even after Lengel chastises them to save face in front of his customers and Sammy announces his desire to resign, Sammy seems to be preoccupied with getting their attention by shouting his resignation “quick enough for them to hear, hoping they'll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero” (Updike 750). It is not until he knows they are out of earshot that his change in perspective becomes evident; statements such as, “You didn’t have to embarrass them” (Updike 750), and “Fiddle-de-doo” (Updike 750) now respectively demonstrate a clear concern for the girls’ feelings as well as an opposition and even flippancy towards the ethos

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