A & P By John Updike Essays

A & P By John Updike Essays

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In the short story “A&P” by John Updike, the narrator Sammy characterizes his boss, Lengel, as an oppressive figure that represents the Bourgeoisie class in order to exploit the conditions of the working class. By characterizing Lengel as a strict yet lazy manager, Updike emphasizes how those in a position of power control the lower classes who are dependent upon them. His characterization as a manipulative figure also contributes to the use of religion and colonizing the conscious as a way of controlling his employees and customers into following his policies. Through Lengel’s function as the antagonist, Updike uses classism, religious ideologies, and colonizing the consciousness in order to criticize the oppressive nature of the class system.
Lengel functions as an antagonist by representing the control that the Bourgeoisie has on the working class. While he is not the owner of the store, Lengel is the manager and therefore he controls the merchandise and monitors the employees without having to do any strenuous tasks. Sammy explains, “Lengel comes in from hagging with a truck full of cabbages on the lot and is about to scuttle into the door marked Manager behind which he hides all day” (Updike 455). Lengel is not a villain, however, he is an antagonistic figure because he holds the highest position within the store and he is of a higher social status than his employees. By mentioning how Lengel “hides all day” in his office, Sammy emphasizes that the working class – him and his coworkers – do all of the manual labor in the store in order to benefit Lengel. In contrast, Sammy uses Stokesie as a foil character to Lengel in order to emphasizes that the only way to eliminate this inequality would be to diminish the class system al...


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...tempt of rugged individualism contributes to the oppressive nature of the class system because quitting Lengel’s store does not provide him any financial stability.
Through the use of classism, religion, and colonizing the consciousness, Updike characterizes Lengel as an antagonistic figure in order to show the inequality and manipulation of the Bourgeoisie class. By contrasting Lengel against Sammy and Stokesie, the reader is able to see how the upper class exploits the Proletariat class for their own benefit. While the theme of classist and religious ideologies allow Lengel to enforce his policies in the store, the use of colonizing the conscious and rugged individualism emphasize how Sammy is powerless against the socioeconomic structure of his community. Through Lengel’s function as the antagonist, Updike is able to criticize the oppression of the class system.

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