John Updike's A & P

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John Updike's A & P


This study purely highlights the ideas of John Updike in his short story, “A & P”. “A & P” is a funny short story. This study will highlight that how John Updike used three characterizations to show how a young “primadonna” leads a respectable young man.

Thesis Statement

In John Updike's short story, “A & P”, he uses three characterizations to show how a young “primadonna” lead a respectable young man to make a poor choice that negatively affected his future.


Since the Garden of Eden when Eve tempted Adam into sin with the apple, male authors have used all kinds of literary tools in order to show how women use any means possible to lead what would otherwise be a good man astray.

On its simplest level, “A & P” is a humorous adventure story, in which a young protagonist acts in the name of romantic love and pays the price. (Bloom, 45-53) The optimistic reader may feel that a sensitive hero has been freed from a dead-end job and a restrictive moral code, but a more realistic response will also recognize that Sammy's act has left him in a kind of limbo: He now belongs neither to the world of Lengel and his parents (because he has quit the job they hoped he would keep) nor to the world the girls represent and to which, through his romantic gesture, he aspires. Like Sarty in William Faulkner's “Barn Burning” (another story about a young boy acting against his parents), Sammy's act takes him, not from one world to another but to a place in between and nowhere. (Boswell, 62-71)


Like so many short stories, both European and American, “A & P” is primarily a story of initiation, as a young boy moves from innocence (and ignorance) to experience (and knowledge). Like the young boy in James Joyce's “Araby,” perhaps the quintessential initiation story, Sammy has gained some knowledge (through what Joyce called an “epiphany” or revelation) both of himself and of adulthood, but he has also discovered “how hard the world was going to be” to those who cling to their romantic notions about life. Lacking as yet the maturity to accept compromise or to live with the world's injustices, this noble and still uncorrupted youth has acted rashly and lost everything, except perhaps himself. The reader implicitly feels that Sammy's initiation into the adult world will continue long after ...
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