Free «A&P by John Updike» Essay Sample

According to the short story A&P by John Updike, environment controls people’s behavior and changes or modifies their judgment or reasoning. The story uses a setting of a supermarket called A&P where the narrator, who works as a cashier, explains his experiences due to the unfavorable atmosphere created by a group of girls wearing swimsuits who often walked in the supermarket. The author has used setting, characters and theme as the distinguishing literary terms which make the short story more interesting.

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The setting of the story is at the supermarket called A&P. The author chose the setting which has an uncomfortable atmosphere for the customers and employees created by the short aisles, florescent lighting and the group of girls, so that he can deliver the message on how the environment controls people’s behavior and changes or modifies their reasoning or judgment. The story setting has also made it possible for the reader to relate the events in a supermarket to those in a car-wash or food joint, which differ greatly where one is forcefully come into contact with multiple cars, many shopping lists and has to remiss having relations with one. This makes it possible for the reader to understand the narrator’s lack of interest and focus of his job compared to people working in car-wash and food joint. Due to these uncomfortable conditions in the supermarket created by the customer, the narrator ended up lacking interests and focus as the author describes him with a situation with a customer, “I stood there with my hand on a box of Hi Ho crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not" (Updike 142).

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The author has effectively described the customers’ characters and personalities in the supermarket. First, customers must express respect and have a constant focus in the supermarket. Secondly, customers are entitled for their tone, speech, timing, blockage and etiquette. Thirdly, all customers should follow the aisles in the supermarket as a road and create a room for the incoming shoppers. Finally, they should be quick and efficient. Contrary to the above, the customers behave differently in the supermarket and hence the narrator suggests that a customer must be restrained from stand-in out of an ordinary way and also follow the specific programmed routine in the supermarket. The author describes the customer’s reaction as inferior animals, “……Sheep pushing their carts down their aisle” (Updike 143). The author describes the girls’ behavior of not adhering to the unwritten rules of the shopping etiquettes by walking against the traffic which leads us to his message of reasoning, "The girls were walking against the usual traffic"(Updike 143). The author also refer to these girls as mammals due to their behavior of not adhering to the laid down rules and regulation, “A couple of costumers who had been heading for my slot begin to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute" (Updike 146). 

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The theme of this short story did not come out clearly though it was being detailed. The main character Sammy ended up protecting the female characters from his Sunday school manager, which himself was not comfortable with during his career in the supermarket. He also terminates his job at A&P supermarket and creates relationships with the group of the girls whom he was against at first. Again, he fails to become an advocate and hence ended up not bettering his life or himself. The author’s final words were, “…my stomach kind of fell as I knew how hard the world would be to me hereafter” (Updike 146). This story gives a lesson to the reader not to complain about the environment we are working in, but rather find solutions to issues affecting us bearing in mind the consequences of the actions when we take a solution.

The short story has described the working experiences of an employee in a supermarket. Its setting enables the reader to understand the story’s theme on how the environment one is working in can influence his or her judgment or reasoning. The setting is also used to show how once lacks interests and focus on his or her job. This is exhaustively described by the characters used in the story, which forces them to act differently than people in an uninhabited place. The theme of the story is not clearly brought out, since the author did not provide any solutions, cautions warnings or the steps the reader should take in order for him or her to fit in an unfavorable working environment. It is to the reader’s expectation that after the narrator realized that there is a problem with many people not coming up with the solutions to issues affecting them in their working conditions, he should have heightened some of the way of handling these problems.

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