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A Feminist Reading of John Updike's A&P Essay

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A Feminist Reading of A&P


Gone are the days that humans could live impulsively, only taking physical pain and pleasure into account when making decisions. Or so one would like to believe. In a display of sheer innocence and ignorance, Sammy, a grocery clerk at the A & P, managed to revert back to the original behavior patterns of his ape-like ancestors. One cannot possibly predict the future of Sammy, given his own illogical and irrational behavior. But one can, through a careful examination of Sammy's life, determine that Sammy is just a naive, young man whose impulsive acts, partly as a consequence of his upbringing, compel him to participate in a cause not worth fighting for, instead of using his talents for more constructive purposes.

No matter how much Sammy tried, he could not transcend the rational barriers of his evolutionary counterpart, the ape. From the moment that Sammy first gazed upon those three young women in bathing suits to his outburst and subsequent resignation, Sammy was not able to separate reason from basic sexual instinct. Sammy first makes the comment, "The longer her neck was, the more of her there was," (Updike 408) and later says, "From the third slot I look straight up this aisle to the meat counter, and I watched them all the way" (Updike 408). After hours--perhaps even years--of being deprived of the sight of a beautiful girl, Sammy gave in to the natural animal tendency to "observe" and pursue a member of the opposite sex. It was of no consequence to Sammy that he did not even know the three girls and had not seen very much of them. Sammy's only overriding desire was, simply put, sex. Sammy made no effort to rationally think about what he was doing; instead, he acted on an impulse stemmin...


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...ions were divulged, and Sammy began to really realize what he was doing, his actions became more noble. One can learn from Sammy the importance of not backing down once decisions are made, and to stand up for one's own opinions despite what other people think. If one can disregard Sammy's initial ape-like motives which stressed the importance of the sex drive, there is much to be learned from that now-eminent grocery clerk. If people finally decide to stand up for what they believe, themselves and the world indubitably be bettered. And then, the world would run less rampant with people who appear to have missed their fair share of natural selection, and the world would be a much more spiritually sound place.

Works Cited

Updike, John. "A & P." The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 2nd Edition. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1990. 407-411.
 


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