Literary Analysis Of John Updike 's A & P Essay

Literary Analysis Of John Updike 's A & P Essay

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Literary theory is a way in which readers look at works of literature through lenses. These lenses allow the reader to consider the literature with ideas in the schools of theory. Literary theory includes the Formalist lens, where the reader only uses the text to make meaning of a piece. Reader response is where the reader brings his or her thoughts or experiences to make sense and interpret literature. The biographical Lens is where the reader looks at the author’s life and the author as a person to make inferences on what portions of a piece might mean. Then there is the feminist lens, this is the one that I have chosen to use in the interpretation of John Updike’s “A&P”. The Feminist criticism lens shows “… how Images of women in literature reflect the patriarchal social forces that have impeded women’s efforts to achieve full equality with men” (1457 Meyer). This analysis of A&P through the feminist lens will focus in on Sammy’s narration, character interactions and setting.
Starting with Sammy’s narrations which are basically the majority of the story, discounting dialog between characters. There are instances in which Sammy uses language in his narration that objectifies women. When Sammy is first describing the girls’ looks, but more specifically, mentions that one of them had a “sweet broad soft-looking can” (Updike 201). Here starts the Objectification of women. Sammy continues to talk about the girl in the plaid swimming suit’s butt more than any other descriptor mentioned earlier in the text. Sammy’s focus is even effected at how intent he was staring at the girl. He couldn’t even remember if he had rung up a box of HiHo crackers (Updike 201). Sammy was just looking at the part of the girl that he wanted to see rather t...


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...s” (Updike 202). What do people do when they are shopping in the meat department? They are inspecting the meat looking for the best cuts. The integration of the butcher’s inspection of the girls is a comparison to the reality that we live in, with men objectifying women for what they can see.
When looking at Updikes “A&P” thru a feminist literary lens there is quite a lot to see. A large theme of female objectification is prevalent when looking at Sammy’s narration as well as the setting where the story takes place. Women’s inequality in the world is also reinforced within the story with the characters interactions, as well as the setting used in the short story. While I do not think that this short story intended to be guided by a patriarchal hand, it just happened due to the concepts identified in the story which are commonalities within the society we live in.

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