A&P John Updike
September 9, 2018
A&P John Updike
“A&P” by John Updike is an interesting story about a young boy that is faced with a questionable challenge of how to stick up for three girls when they walk into a grocery story wearing only bathing suits. The way he chose to resolve the situation leaves him with a valuable outlook on life. John Updike’s “A&P” utilizes foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism to reveal that an effort of heroism for a moment is better than living a life of dullness.
The first element of foreshadowing contributes to the theme by allowing the reader to see that something is about to happen by the way sammy is speaking. In the middle of the A;P, the narrator describes that the story has already taken place. lastly, our narrator uses foreshadowing to explain that the girls are going to be a bigger problem than what Sammy originally anticipated. Reading it again for the second time gave me a better insight on the clues that Updike uses throughout the story referring to Sammy hating his job. When Sammy is constantly bringing up the cons of his job, the reader can only guess that he will have a conflict toward the store or his job. Sammy brings up that he creates songs when the register rings someone up, hinting how he copes with his boredom. We know that Sammy hasn’t quit in the past because he wants to make his parents happy. He says, "He’s been a friend of my parents for years; when talking about Lengel, showing that he is in his position not because of his passion.
The second element of irony supports the theme because Sammy quits his job for the girls, but comes to the realization that the girls don’t even know about what he had done. Sammy starts in the story with a contradictory behavior but he leaves his job with a pinch of humor. A perfect example of when Sammy realizes that what he had done was for “nothing”, and a lot harder to fit in with the world then he thought is when our narrator explained that his face was, “dark gray and his back stiff as if he’d just had an injection of iron.” Then Sammy’s stomach “kind of fell” as he felt how hard the world was going to be to him after. Obviously the easier alternative would involve not quitting his job, but now that he has, he must live with the consequences. With the quote, “But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it.” Is sammy making a dramatic gesture but it’s ironic in the way that he is accepting the values through “A&P”.
The third element of symbolism also refrains theme by showing that the supermarket represents struggles in life and Sammy gets a taste of these upsetting predicaments. The three girls can also represent the different types of temptations a person will encounter that will lead them to make unprocessed decisions. The store manager, Lengel, can also act as symbolism because a lot of times, people are held back to make decisions because they are afraid or don’t want to upset others. One example where Sammy faces someone whos holding him back comes when Lengel says, “You’ll feel this for the rest of your life, and I know that’s true.” Lengel is trying to convince Sammy to stay, but he has already made the decision. Sammy’s next reaction to Lengel confronting the girls is that he thinks that Lengel is possibly being a little too harsh and people should have a little more freedom when he says, “Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.” Lengel also starts the conversation with “Girls, this isn’t a beach”. The girls walking in with their bathing suits leads Sammy to make an unreasonable decision, due to a temptation. In my mind, this may also be a tactic of intimidation toward the girls. Not really holding them back but most people would try to get out of the situation because they’re uncomfortable.