John Updike's A&P provides numerous perspectives for critical interpretation. His descriptive metaphors and underlying sexual tones are just the tip of the iceberg. A gender analysis could be drawn from the initial outline of the story and Sammy's chauvinism towards the female. Further reading opens up a formalist and biographical perspective to the critic. After several readings I began seeing the Marxist perspective on the surreal environment of A&P. The economic and social differences are evident through Sammy's storytelling techniques and even further open up a biographical look at Updike's own view's and opinions. According to an essay posted on the internet Updike was a womanizer in his own era and displayed boyish immaturity into his adulthood. A second analysis of this story roots more from a reader-response/formalist view. Although Sammy centered his dramatization around three young females, more specifically the Queen of the trio, it was a poignant detailed head to toe description of scene. I'll touch on that later.
The Marxist style of criticism makes me a bit uncomfortable, because of the socialist and oppressive context it could be mistaken for. There is a clear definition of class in this particular story; Sammy, a young man at the beginning of adulthood yet living in a moderately conservative town in New England. His mom still irons his shirts for him, and he has little respect for his elders. This is clearly outlined when a double rung up item brings a scolding from a 50-something, a look at his thought process, reveals him imagining her in Salem burning at the stake. At this time he notices three young females gracing their way through the store. He describ...
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...up on Stokesie like sheep, Engel explains that policy insists that shoulders must be covered. Policy is what the kingpins want. What others want is juvenile delinquency. Like a champ Sammy throws in the towel. He watched as 3 girls bucked the norm and alternately was confident enough to quit altogether. They get away from him and his feet are carrying him to the place of his residence rather than a car, reserved for higher classes. He ends with the thought how hard the world was to be to me hereafter. Sammy?s variety of verbal simulations and creations for the reader reveal the social and economic classes of basic society. The adults like animals, the attractive women- analyzed on a pedestal in full description and personification, employees get harped on too. Stoksie was a little to ambitious for a bagger, and management was regarded like the rest of the animals.
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