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Summary of A&P by John Updike

4 Pages 977 Words November 2018

The roles of individuals in a given society are bound by the need to change over time. Undoubtedly, the very definition of a typical household has changed entirely since the original publication of John Updike’s short story in 1961. This era in history brought on as much tension as it did progressive shifts in the fabric of Americans lives. Deep cultural shifts were changing the role and status of women. In a distinctive, first person and relatable narrative, John Updike successfully touches upon the structure of societal values and the alienation that results from those who attempt to form a new idealism.
Sammy represents a striking blend between the mindset of the clashing generations in “A&P.” At the age of nineteen, the reader notices that Sammy possesses both immature and older mannerisms throughout the short story. Age, both the elderly and the young, play an underlying role that represents the two schools of thought in conflict with each other. The innate male desire for women makes the men, one who is single and the other married, act in a lewd sense. Although married, Stokesie tells Sammy that he “’feels faint’” (19) watching the girls circle the store in their swimsuits. The lustful ogling of the girls in the store reveals a distinct immaturity between the two men who are both similar and different. Lengel’s reaction, however, differs greatly due to his set views on the modesty of women. The reaction is as drastic as to lead Lengel to state that “’they were embarrassing us’” (21) as if they had broken the social contract of the time. Sammy can’t help but imagine how the three girls would be received at the beach as opposed to A&P. At the beach “with the glare, nobody can look at each other much anyway” (18-19). However, these three girls contrast heavily had older women tried to do the same. If older women “put on a shirt or shorts or something before they [got] out of the car with six childre...

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