A Feminist Perspective of John Updike's A&P

Satisfactory Essays
A Feminist Perspective of Updike’s A&P

Two Works Cited John Updike’s story, "A&P," starts off: "In walks three girls in nothing but bathing suits," and that pretty much sums it all up (Updike 1026). In the story, not only are the girls in bathing suits looked upon as sex objects, but other women are negatively viewed as witches, farm animals, or slaves. This story is about how a young man in the early 1960’s viewed women as a whole, including his own mother.

At the beginning of the story Sammy complains about an older woman, a fifty-year-old "witch" with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, who is waiting to check out her groceries. She gets annoyed with Sammy because he is too busy drooling over the young flesh which has just walked in the door (Updike 1026). The first half-naked girl who walks into the A&P and catches Sammy’s eye is a chunky girl with a two-piece plaid bathing suit on that showed off her "sweet broad soft-looking can" (Updike l026). As if staring at this girl’s backside wasn’t enough, Sammy also noticed "those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit" (Updike 1026).

How would this girl feel if she knew just how intensely this guy was scoping her out? Or better yet, how would you feel if someone’s eyes were glued to your backside when you were grocery shopping? That behavior, no matter what she was wearing, is totally unacceptable especially in a grocery store. Is Sammy at fault for not having any self control? It might be acceptable for this nineteen-year-old guy to check out a girl in her bathing suit; however, that would not have excused old McMahon, the deli guy, who patted his mouth and "sized up their joints" as the girls walked away from the counter (Updike 1027).

"Goony-Goony," the next victim of Sammy’s intentional harassment, was presented in the story as a rather tall girl with "black hair that hadn’t quite frizzed right" for Sammy’s taste (Updike 1026). He found some reason not to be interested in this girl, probably because he was intimidated by her height.

Obviously, perfection was not something he saw in anyone, except maybe the girl he referred to as "Queenie," who Sammy says, "has the nicest two scoops of vanilla breasts" he has ever seen (Updike 1028).
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