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Word Choice In A & P By John Updike

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For an author, word choice is the most important factor in conveying tone. In John Updike’s short story “A&P”, there are many variations of word choice that convey different tones towards the girls, towards himself, and towards authority. In the end there is also a major shift in tone that helps bring together this “coming of age” story. Because of the use of casual language, slang, and contractions, the overall tone of this story is informal and conversational and changes based on whom the narrator, Sammy, is talking about. The story starts immediately with Sammy noticing the group of girls that walk into A&P in their bathing suits. The first girl he mentions has “a sweet broad soft-looking can with…two crescents of white just under it…”…show more content…
At one point when he and Stokesie were observing the girls they have a conversation in which they are pretending as though they will pass out from how good the girls look. Stokesie says “Oh Daddy, I feel so faint,” and Sammy responds with “Darling, hold me tight.” The tone expressed in this exchange between the boys is very arrogant towards them – like they are above the girls have the right to look at them as objects, not human beings. Along with that, Sammy mentions the fact that Stokesie “things he’s going to be manager some sunny day” because he thinks he is better than everyone else. He constantly talks down to the girls and customers as though to him they are nothing but trash or insignificant people. The word choice conveys the idea that both Sammy and Stokesie have a very cocky tone regarding the relationship between men and the rest of the people in the world – the men are on…show more content…
At the point that Sammy says, “I quit,” the tone becomes more serious and tense. In the last section, Updike uses phrases that give the idea that Sammy is rambling and uses words such as “nervous” and “fumbling” to convey a very uneasy tone. Sammy isn’t quite sure what he just got himself into when he quits his job. There is also a very regretful and reflective tone, as Sammy gets ready to leave his job that he just quit. His boss, Lengel tries to convince him to stay by saying he “doesn’t want to do this to [his] mom and dad.” And Sammy knows right then that he doesn’t but says that it would be “fatal” if he didn’t go through with his decision at this point. When he walks out of the store Sammy realizes “how hard the world was going to be…hereafter.” This line alone provides for a very regretful but serious tone because he knows he made a mistake but now it’s up to him to fix it. The story ends in a very ominous tone as Updike leaves it somewhat open ended so the reader doesn’t really know what happens with Sammy. Considering the entire story, the tone could best be described as humorous and conversational with a hint of seriousness. Updike uses a multitude of different types of diction to convey Sammy’s different tones of judgmental, arrogant, and contemptuous towards girls, himself and his elders through the story. The use of the slang and informal language contribute to a casual
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