Lengel's Role Of Classism In A & P, By John Updike

1492 Words6 Pages
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.…show more content…
For example, when the three girls dressed in bathing suits walk into the store, Lengel confronts them because they are breaking the social norms that he has established. Sammy mentions, “He had been thinking all these years the A&P was a great big dune and he was the head lifeguard. He didn’t like my smiling – as I say he doesn’t miss much – but he concentrates on giving the girls that sad Sunday-school-superintendent stare” (Updike 455). The religious connotation in the phrase “Sunday-school-superintendent stare” is used to establish that Lengel holds a position of power over the girls. While the girls are of higher class than Lengel, his power as a male and the manager prevails over anyone else’s status and he is able to condemn those who go against his policies. The embarrassment of the girls contributes to the ideology of religion because it enforces the idea that society must follow the rules of those in power because everything happens according to God’s plan (Tyson 57). None of the other customers come to the girls’ defense because they trust Lengel as an authority figure and believe that his rules are justifiable. Sammy also compares Lengel to a lifeguard which further emphasizes the idea that Lengel’s job is to help others in need. Both of these metaphors imply that the customers and the employees of the store are dependent on Lengel because he has…show more content…
By manipulating Sammy, Lengel tries to convince him that he is financially inferior and that he would benefit from the protection and guidance of someone from a higher status (Tyson). For example, Lengel attempts to make Sammy feel guilty over quitting the store. Lengel says, “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your Mom and Dad” (Updike 457). Since it is mentioned that Lengel is friends with Sammy’s parents, it is assumed that his parents got him the job at A&P. However, it is also implied that Sammy is in the lower or middle class and it is evident that Sammy’s family needs as many paychecks as they can get. Therefore, quitting his job at the A&P store would cause a financial burden on Sammy’s entire family. Lengel also threatens, “You’ll feel this for the rest of your life” (Updike 457). Yet again, Lengel tries to make Sammy feel guilty by making it seem as though quitting the store could affect his future chances of getting a job. Through colonizing his consciousness, Lengel attempts to make Sammy feel emotionally and financially dependent on the potential benefits of working at A&P. Updike uses the colonization of the conscious in order to emphasize Lengel’s control and manipulation over

More about Lengel's Role Of Classism In A & P, By John Updike

Open Document