A&P, comic short story written by John Updike, narrates of a teenage boy fallen in love with several girls of the same age who visited the store where he worked. The author uses colorful imagery and descriptive words in developing the story setting to portray the image of the American conformist consumer culture.
The story begins with a small introduction that describes the main characters. The story takes place on the north from Boston, thus readers could imagine it is a small remote village located amid expensive lodgings. In the entire story setting, there are many class tensions that become apparent at last. The major character who is also the narrator in this story is a gentleman named Sammy. He is working at the cash register of a grocery when three luxurious looking girls enter the store. The girls are flaunting clothed only in bathing suits. According to Sammy, the girls’ appearance is extra-ordinary, and their presence creates a stir. The detailed description of the nice customers enables to reach participation effect, letting a reader see the whole scene by their own eyes.
Stoksie, a clergy at the store, chats with Sammy since they are both admiring the physical beauty of the girls. However, the clergy, personifying a member of established social stratum, gets back to his usual married man title and rushes back to work. Sammy is carried away with a girl he nicknaed Queenie due to her elegance. The A&P store manager Lengel representing the system is not impressed with the girls dressing, and when they get to the counter, he approaches them claiming that the store is not a beach. As a result, Lengel start a quarrel with the ladies and Sammy is quick to defend them, and this is how he ends up leaving his job. The story comes to an end with Sammy sitting lonely outside the parking lot. Sammy watches through the window his ex-boss doing his routine job. He feels a sense of dismay. In his mind, quitting the job made things hard for him in his future days.
This story would seem short and inconsiderable, but it represents and satirizes the political situation and society of the USA in 1960-s. A&P illustrates a fixture of the American life. In Sammy’s eyes, this store reflects the conformist tendency of his environment. According to him, the store patrons follow certain rules and standard of behavior instead of thinking independently. The girls in the bathing suits symbolize rebelling against conformism. Herring snacks bought by them are expensive and fancy meal and highlight the prosperity of girls’ families.
The development of the A&P story has great details. For example, epithets make it more attractive. Updike vivid portrayals show Sammy’s expressivity. Narrator also provides details about the outside setting, and this allows a rreader to come in the scene and imagine how the A&P stores surroundings look like. The setting in this story also helps the readers set the mood and influences on the behavior of characters. It invokes an emotional response, gives a reflection of the society that the characters live in. The story setting allows a reader understand the role of the characters and the story theme as well.
Symbols in this story also cover the customers. Sammy refers to the customers who came for shopping as sheep or followers. The reason is that they wasted much time wandering mindlessly around the store. Moreover, he also calls the girls bees being led by a queen. According to him, sheep represents individuals who just follow the flock unthinkably together, and do what every other person is doing. In most cases, sheep are of blind conformity. Having left his job, Sammy understands how hard it is to swim against the stream and feels attraction to some strict rules that are so easy to follow. Herring snacks and beer glasses are other symbols in the story.
How Can We Help?
In summary, symbolism played a great role in bringing out the story theme by making readers understand the story setting better. The author used a lot of artistic devices to get out his message. All the minor depicted details reflect the general mood of the story, help readers to associate themselves with the character and grasp the main idea.