John Updike's A & P

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John Updike's A & P At first read, John Updike's 'A & P' contrasts old and new; the old manager in his settled life conflicting with the new age of girls wearing bathing suits in buildings. All the while, the narrator stuck in the middle, finally deciding to join the side of new, or youth. Instead of old vs. new, an observation closer to the heart of the story is conflict between the worlds of the rich and the middle class. ?A & P? is the setting for one man to decide in which way he will seek to follow his life, standing on his own two feet and treating everyone as equals, or bowing before the wealthy, and searching for his own riches above all else. In walk three girls into a grocery store in bathing suits. They?re far enough away from the beach that it is customary for them to be wearing more clothes. Their actions are deliberate and exaggerated; they came in the store to buy one item, but that was not their purpose for being there. It?s easy to extract from the story that the girls stood out in many ways, money being an important one. Updike presents Sam the cashier as thinking, ?Her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big glass plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them.? Sam?s impression of the girls was obviously that they came from wealth, something that he could not claim of himself. And although he outwardly admired their bodies, he was really admiring their wealth. The girls walked in and by the lack of conformity of their dress, immediately they set a different tone within the store. They walked the wrong way down isles and paid no att... ... middle of paper ... ...o become what they are, so that he can walk around and have others treat him with respect above others. In ?A & P? John Updike gives a story of a man faced with two choices for his life in a seemingly unimportant circumstance. He can stand up for himself and for his rules, as his manager encourages him to do so. But as the story goes, he remains oblivious to the forces at work, and decides to bend his will to three girls in bathing suits, or more generally, to those who have the power and nobility of wealth behind them. Sam makes the wrong choice, and subsequently, makes the rest of his life more difficult, as he admits that he must life his life under another class of people, the wealthy, as though he is less than them. By admitting that he is less than them, Sam has started to live his life not for the happiness he can obtain, but for the wealth he can obtain.

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