John Hoyer Updike was born March 18, 1932, to Linda Grace Updike and Wesley Russell Updike in Reading, Pennsylvania. Wesley Updike was originally from New Jersey where he worked as a telephone splicer and was laid off from his job during the depression. Wesley Updike met his wife Linda Updike in New Jersey. After Wesley Updike was laid off in New Jersey they moved to Shillington, Pennsylvania where Linda Updike was from. Wesley Updike became a teacher at the local High School. (“Updike, John 413).
John Updike started to attend public schools in Shillington in 1936; he continued to attend schools in Shillington until 1950. In 1945 his family moved to an 80-acre farmhouse in Plowville, Pennsylvania eleven miles from Shillington. In 1950 John Updike graduated president and co-valedictorian from Shillington High School. During the summer he worked as a copy boy for the Reading Eagle. As a copy boy, he wrote a few feature stories for the newspaper (“Updike, John 414).
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That fall he began to attend Harvard and started writing for the Harvard Lampoon a funny magazine where he was later elected the president of the magazine. On June 26, 1953 he married his wife Mary E, Pennington a fine arts major from Radcliffe, she was two years older than John Updike. In 1954 he wrote his senior paper on Robert Herrick, who was a 17th-century poet. That summer he graduated from Harvard summa cum laude (Yerkes, James 4/2/00). The next fall John Updike moves to England on a Knox Fellowship where he enrolled in fine arts at Oxford. At Oxford, he met Katharine White and she offers him a job on the staff of The New Yorker.
That summer he returned to his wife, and their first child Elizabeth was born April 1, 1955. He moved his family to Manhattan where he began his work at The New Yorker. 1957 son David was born and he left the staff of The New Yorker to concentrate on his own writing. May 14 1959 son Michael was born. December 15, 1960 his last child Miranda was born. In 1962 John Updike began teaching at Harvard. On April 1, 1964 elected to the American Academy of Arts at 32, he was the youngest member ever elected. In 1976 he filed for divorce and was granted. He moved in with Martha Bernhard and her three sons. He married Martha on September 30 of that year. In 1970 he traveled with his daughter Elizabeth to Japan and Korea. In 1992 Harvard gave him Doctors of Letters Degree during the June 31 commencement. 1998 Harvard awarded him the Harvard’s Arts First Medal and later that year he traveled with his wife to China (“Updike,John 414).
When he moved his family to Ipswich, Maine he completed a 600-page novel called Home. He completed his first famous novel The Poorhouse Fair and in 1960 that book received a Rosenthal Foundation Award of the National Institute and was a National Book Award Finalist. Later that year he published Rabbit Run funded by Guggenheim Foundation. In 1962 he completed his short story “Pidgeon Feathers” and it was published in America’s Best Short Stories book. 1964 he wrote Olinger Stories that were based on his early days in Shillington, Pennsylvania. 1962-1982 he receives honorary doctoral degrees from Urinsus College, Moravian College, Lafayette College, and Albright College. All these colleges were in Pennsylvania where he grew up. In 1971 he completed Rabbit Redux it is a National Book Award Finalist.
In 1981 he finished his 3rd of a 4 set of novels called Rabbit is Rich it receives many awards. In 1981 His first novel The Carpentered Hen is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a fiction novel. In 1984 The Witches of Eastwick was written and later made into a movie starring Jack Nicholsen, Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer. In 1990 he wrote his last rabbit story called Rabbit at Rest where Rabbit returns to Pennsylvania to talk about his childhood. In 1991 he receives his second Pulitzer Prize for Odd Jobs. He is one of only three authors to receive two Pulitzers (“Updike,John 414).
John Updike’s writing was very materialistic. His writing was based on his life experiences and his early years in Pennsylvania. His characters were self-absorbed, ridden with guilt, concerned with their own importance and worried about death. He talked about morals and that nobody had morals. This was based on his own experience with his marriage and being unfaithful. (“Updike, John 414).
The Story “Pigeon Feathers” took place in New York, parts of New England, and scenes in England but the story always comes back to Pennsylvania. Updike’s characters from the story are taken directly out of his life. The schoolteacher in the story was his dad and the inhospitable mother was his mom in real life. The girl, shy boy, and Olinger in the story was based on his life in his early days in Pennsylvania.
John Updike is said to be one of the 20th century’s greatest writers. He wrote about his own life experiences in his stories and all his problems he has incurred as he was growing up. His stories are not enjoyed by all people because all his characters are arrogant and self-centered and it’s different to have no compassion for his characters, and that makes it hard to want to read the book.
John Updike’s poems are written in a very peculiar style. Unlike most poets, Updike’s poems seem to tell a story, rather than depict a singular emotion. This is due to the fact that many of Updike’s poems deal with simple, yet focused topics. Updike masters the use of vivid language to produce powerful images in the minds of his readers. The use of such strong language in his poems allows his readers to see and experience the messages which he is portraying. Although the topics of Updike’s poems vary immensely, the same detailed conceptions are evoked from every poem.
One poem that stands out, among his sexual pieces, is Fellatio. Unlike intercourse, fellatio has been depicted throughout history as an unclean and unacceptable practice. In Updike’s poem, Fellatio, he initially gives this sexual act a completely different character. Does Updike write? How beautiful to think / that each of these clean secretaries / at night, to please her lover, takes / a fountain into her mouth…? (p. 49). Although the act of oral sex is widely practiced today, I have never heard it depicted as a beautiful act.
The sense of beauty comes from the idea that the woman and her lover share a bond so deep that she is willing to do anything to please him. Updike later portrays this act as very natural, because he goes on to compare the culmination of oral sex to nature at the end of this poem. The act is compared to the planting of flowers in a field, or the beautiful, clean, innocent clouds in the sky.
This poem was very shocking to me because it gave this act such innocent, natural connotations when you first read it. Updike, however, has added a subtle element of humor to this poem. This element of humor depicts the speaker’s true feelings about this act. The line in which the speaker says? How beautiful,? is clearly sarcastic. It also seems to imply that there is comedic value to the idea that these women, who appear so clean-cut and proper in the work place, can return home to their lovers and be completely different.
In another of Updike’s sexual poems, sex is represented in an extremely different manner. In Updike’s poem, Cunts, a very contradictory image of sexuality is given. Updike uses the word cunt in this poem consistently. This word is a very degrading word for the vagina, but he characterizes the female genitalia in a very positive fashion. Updike characterizes this portion of the human anatomy as a beautiful thing, especially when he refers to it as the, ?…Glad tunnel of life…? (p. 118).
The process of giving birth is probably the most beautiful and rewarding experience that a woman can endure. Due to this characterization, the reader is filled with respect for the woman’s body, because of the miracles that it can perform. Updike inserts the word cunt into the middle of thoughts, to enhance his point. Updike writes, ?…there is almost / cunt too much of a CUNT good thing CUNT…? (p.119).
The use of these derogatory, interfering statements provides the reader with a clear view of Updike’s point. Updike is showing the reader that society’s view of men and women in society is tainted. We as a society tend to treat women as the inferior gender, with less freedom and more demanding guidelines than men. Most men crave sexual contact with a woman all of the time and when acting upon these impulses, they are idolized by their peers. If a woman has the same urges and acts upon them, however, she is instantly labeled a slut and a whore by society.
Updike uses interesting techniques to enhance the meaning of his poems in other ways as well. In some of his non-sexual pieces, he uses interesting words and rhymes to present his meaning to the reader. In his poem, Reel, Updike repeats tongue-twisting words, such as, whirl, whorl, and have to pass the poems meaning on to his reader. In this particular poem, Updike is trying to construct a sense of reeling to the reader. Updike does this, not through the meaning of his words, but their sounds when read aloud. When reading a passage of this poem, the reader’s mind, and mouth are sent spinning through the use of common letters and sounds within the words.
Does Updike write, “Whirl, a whorl of wharves! The world / Whirls within solar rings / Which once were hotly hurled / Away by whirling things!? (p. 296) When a person experiences an emotion or sensation so powerful that their world seems out of control, there comes a sense of freedom. This passage, like the remainder of the poem, causes the reader’s tongue and mind to flow so freely, that they forget about trying to decipher the meaning of the poem and truly experience the meaning. This is one of the most effective poems that I have ever read because without giving an ounce of thought to the meaning of the poem, it is instantly conveyed.
Like this last poem, Updike uses sounds in many of his poems to enhance the messages of his poems. In the poem, Sonic Boom, Updike ends every line with words that end in resounding syllables. The poem is expressing the excitement and fear that a family feels when hearing a sonic boom. The sheer force of this fear is conveyed to the reader by the power of words that are used in the poem. The words are not powerful, however, due to their meaning, but rather because of the resounding sounds that they command. By ending his lines in words such as boom, doom, clap, snap, snap, boom, and doom, Updike enhances the feeling of every line.
Does the speaker say, “The ceiling shudders at the clap…” (p. 305) and although shudders is a strong verb in itself, the use of a thunderous word at the end of the line drives his point into the reader’s mind and body. We can all, when reading this poem, not only hear the sound that the plane makes when it passes overhead, but we can actually feel it reverberating through our bodies.
John Updike uses many different techniques in his poems to convey the messages of his poems. Updike uses contradictory descriptions and images to amplify his meaning in some of his poems. These poems tend to create two very different images within the reader’s mind, but he also has another effective means of making the reader understand the meaning of his poems. John Updike is a master of manipulating the sound of words. This allows his readers to actually feel the meanings of his poems, without having to explore his intentions when writing the poems.
While roaming through different John Updike stories, I found styles of writing that varied within each one. A typical Updike character was self-absorbed and guilt-ridden (Disc.Authors Pg. ). One of these stories I read was the Witches of Eastwick. In this novel, I realized it was a high-spirited comedy. The romance along with the evil involved made it a well-written fable.
When career thinking came up for John Updike he could not make the decision on his future plans for life (Thompson 976). With high hopes, John planned to be a cartoonist. As he started to mature, though, his interest shifted toward writing, and by age 18, he had decided to follow writing as a career (Thompson 976). Some influences were involved with this decision. ?In addition to enduring bouts with hay fever and psoriasis, Updike had a painful skin disease that he had to deal with (America Online)?. The isolation he suffered from these illnesses compelled him to the solitary occupation of writing (Thompson 976).
John Updike did not have any real influences in most of his writings. His books consist of fictional novels that he created with no ulterior help. Some, although few do relate to his life. One of Updike’s novels, The Rabbit Run has some of the same characteristics that he had when he was younger. John Updike’s choice of Rabbit Angstrom, in Rabbit, Run, was inspired by one of a happy, instinctive accident that shapes a literary career (America Online). For Rabbit, the main character in the story was born, like him, in the early 1930s, and a product of the same world (the area around Reading, Pa.) was a “beautiful brainless guy” whose career (as a high
school basketball star) peaked at age 18. In his own wife’s view, he was like this, before their early marriage. Rabbit is the enormously promising president of the class of 1950 at Shillington High School. This relationship between both of them has allowed John Updike to dramatize with great detail Rabbit’s life and to be able to dissect him (America Online).
As with every writer, there are critics. These people provide information on an author’s work, skills, and quality of writing. Joyce Oakes, a well–known critic of the East Coast had things to say about John Updike (America Online). ?Updike presents average people, mostly men, searching for artistic or religious meaning in the awareness of their own mortality within his work? (America Online). Critics rarely agree on the artistic value of Updike’s work though.
Literary figures such as Norman Mailer and John W. Aldridge regard his style as superficial, a lack of substance within the book (Discovering Authors Pg. ). Most critics, however, concede John Updike’s work as a mastery of presentation and consider him among America’s most distinguished authors. John Cheever a critic from Boston said that Updike is? the most brilliant and versatile writer of his generation (Disc. Authors Pg. ).
All critics have their own set beliefs and ideas about an author’s writing. As with all of them their thinking is not all the same. While looking at all of the quotes from these people I noticed the inconsistent thoughts that were brought forward. Some of them thought that Updike was a shallow writer but others regarded him a legend of his time.
I think John Updike is a somewhat dull writer that does not focus on the facts. He does not leave the reader with an understanding of the moral of the story. Though his novels seem to be for the adult majority, I had trouble understanding some lines out of his books.
Many people would recognize John Updike as an important figure in American Literature. All of his novels have a consistent quality to the reader and offer a book worth buying. These novels have earned him many prestigious awards including the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction nomination in 1986 for Roger’s Version and in 1991 the Pulitzer Prize for the Rabbit At Rest (Disc. Authors Pg. ). In his long career he has explored in depth the art of writing novels, writing short stories, being a poet, essayist, and dramatist which has made him a well-known name among American Literature today (Disc. Authors Pg. ).
Men and women have depended on each other forever. The unique bond between the male and female is often discussed through literature. John Updike examines male freedom as a myth. Through his writing, John Updike shows a man’s need for women.
In the novel “Marry Me” by John Updike an ordinary suburban love affair is illustrated. Jerry is a man, engulfed by self-hatred, as well as raging anger. Sally, his mistress, is a depressed and confused woman lacking self-confidence. Jerry is in a marriage with Ruth, but it is by name only. The true elements of love, passion, and pure sexual appetite are only exhibited through the love affair Jerry is having with Sally.
Men are the focus of John Updike’s literature. Using male characters allows Updike to open up a feminized world. The men in Updike’s novels are victims of forces, which only the reader understands, but the character does not.
Women are usually the only masculine pursuit in John Updike’s novels that offer the promise of relief. Jerry lives in a typical Connecticut suburb. His home lacks the usual male obsession with both work and sports. Jerry’s only urge for advancement was for money purposes.
Unlike the traditional love triangle, which leaves two men fighting for one woman, Updike puts Ruth and Sally in competition for one man. Does John Updike provide the character assessment of Jerry to be one of a man with boyish hope for pure love with the “perfect” woman and his underlying wants and needs to love, as well as his helplessness to understand his own complicated life.
In numerous pieces of John Updike’s literature when the male character finds the woman of their dreams, he will eventually begin to hate her. Jerry conquers Sally and overpowers her concerns for her small children, her marriage, as well as her devotion to family and her financial security. However, he is extremely unwilling to change, but in the same way unable to remain the same man. He knows what he desires in a woman. Jerry wants a warm woman, yet he stays with a cold woman.
Ruth (Jerry’s wife) keeps both his anger and contempt alive, but he still stays with her. He looks in turn to his mistress Sally to give him strength and encouragement. However, by sally giving Jerry the support, he will truly crave, she allows him to become frustrated and angry at her for threatening to demolish the hatred, which binds him to Ruth forever. By acting in this confusing manner Jerry is pushing Sally away. His dependency on both women is typical of the male characters throughout john Updikes? literature.
Jerry remains helpless before his need to wound. He is so passive and indecisive that he tries to put Ruth and Sally at odds. Through doing this he removes himself from any responsibility. They also compete to see which woman’s love will ultimately win the game and receive Jerry as their prize. And all the while this is occurring Jerry is reveling in the fact that both women are mothering him while this fight goes on for him. Jerry wants to be able to think well of himself and let the women become the root of the ongoing problem.
Sex is also a very prevalent part of the novel? Marry Me?. John Updike uses sex in his literature to free men to do other things, but in turn, deeply bind women to the men they make love to. Especially, in the case of Jerry and Sally, the man wants to please the woman, however, he can not do so due to the problem that what she is yearning for is marriage and a stable life with the love of her life. As Sally watches Jerry leave the bed and prepare for the day, only to dash out to play the role of another man in his public life; she feels lonely and left behind, almost forgotten.
Jerry in return to his uncertain future was overwhelmed with a sense of death anxiety. This reflects his fear of being punished for the damage and betrayal he is inflicting on both his wife and his mistress.
Jerry staggers throughout his life unable to come to terms with what each of the women in his life needs and wants. In order to avoid his predicament. Jerry looks past the pain of each woman and instead focuses on his own personal sexual anger. As Ruth and Sally nurture Jerry, he blames them rather than himself for the turmoil his life is in.
Jerry spectacularly manages to overlook the disaster surrounding him, which is his life. In order to handle what is unfolding all around him, Jerry separates himself from Sally at points and forces himself not to see the woman he makes love to and carries on an intimate affair with. ? In sex Sally’s face is a mirror held inches below his own face, a mirror of love more than another person. He asked himself who this was and then he remembered it was Sally.? Jerry like many of John Updike’s other characters is so pre-occupied and obsessed with their objective. This objective is depending on the women in order to escape as much responsibility and self-disapproval as possible.
The novel “Marry Me” examines a confused and complex man, his wants, his needs, and his child-like faith in the mystery and magic of a woman. It exhibits a man’s dependency on women and his lack of control over his own life.
Another piece of literature written by John Updike which examines the male tendency to be dependent on women is “Rabbit Run”.
Rabbit Angstrom is a working-class man. As a basketball star throughout his high school career and Rabbit was praised and recognized as a leader. At age twenty-six he realized the hatred he had for his humiliating job. He recognized the disappointment he sees in the eyes of his pregnant wife and their toddler son. Rabbit knows the sense of exaltation he felt in high school had long passed. Rabbit decides to escape the pressure and responsibilities his problems have brought about, and he runs away.
At age thirty-six Rabbit returned home. He had become a hard-working lino-typer, as well as a husband and a father. He has begun to model himself after his own father. He has become passive and joyless.
However, times have begun to change. Rabbits? wife Janice is now making an income of her own and has also found a new man to replace the bond she and Rabbit had once shared. Janice had become independent, leaving Rabbit not only alone but confused.
Rabbit and Janice are a mismatched pair whose aggravation with each other is miserable, however, it is absolutely crucial. Neither Janice nor Rabbit is happy with each other, yet the presence of her husband helps Janice function and the presence of his wife helps Rabbit behave like a man. Janice is the control of Rabbits? anger and self-hatred.
Sammy’s world is not open. Through a relaxed and casual tone, Sammy explains his work and experience at the store. The setting of A&P is at a small grocery store, and one can conclude that it is the wrong place for this young man. He works in a small grocery store where he sits checking customers’ purchases all day. The work at A&P is very monotonous and does not encourage Sammy to be creative such that his mind wanders off, and he rings a customer’s item twice.
From Sally’s point of view, his job is sometimes so dull that he can hear songs from the cash register. Becoming a manager is the best that he can hope for in his current position. Moreover, Sammy is unhappy at his place of work, and he is glad when the three girls walk in and take the mind of his work and away from his small and closed world. He desires a different kind of life that is represented by the three girls who are clearly from another social divide.
Sammy comes from a lower social class, and the beauty of the girls makes him desire to have the kind of life they have. For example, they even dare to go to the store in bikinis in apparent disregard of the norms of this small town. They are free from the rules, and Sammy wishes to gain such freedom that is not in his little world.
In John Updike’s short story “A&P”, small-town New England life is teeming with a whole lot of nothing. Sammy, the man who tells all, seems very uninterested in his job as a checkout boy at the local A&P, yet very interested in the people who shop there. He uses his boredom as a vehicle of his imagination that allows him to pry his customers open and expose their true selves. Updike’s Sammy shows himself as an observant, critical, and very bored young man through his first-person narration.
Updike’s choice of the first-person perspective lends Sammy the ever-powerful ability to quietly but relentlessly gather observations of the people and things around him. The first characters encountered are “three girls in nothing but bathing suits”(369).
This scene would obviously catch the attention of any breathing male. But Sammy first takes in “the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid . . . [with] a sweet broad soft-looking can”(369). With these quick and most likely mindless observations, Sammy exposes himself as a person who judges others based on appearances.
As he takes note of the three girls, he sees “the queen [with] a kind of prim face. Walking into the A&P with your straps down, I suppose it’s the only kind of face you can have”(370). Sammy’s observations of the girls in bathing suits are not the only ones made throughout the story. However, the notice taken of the girls is the most kind. Perhaps through his mindless job of ringing up items, Sammy finds that making quick judgments of his customers through brief interactions is quite entertaining.
He sees one female customer as “one of those cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows she’d been watching cash registers for fifty years and probably never seen a mistake before”(369). Sammy gathers this unfair judgment coarsely and without much thought. He uses this same technique while watching the girls in bathing suits, for example, he thinks the older woman is a witch while he thinks that the girl with her straps down is the queen of her group.
And why? Because it’s easy for him to assume these things based on what he sees. He also sees a man “in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice” and wonders to himself “what do these bums do with all that pineapple juice? “(371). Sammy makes a very unsympathetic assumption of an unfortunate soul down on his luck. Sammy’s own character faults lie in his tendency to label every human being that walks into his eyesight only because he has no other diversion with which to amuse himself.
These customers of his are being set up for a big error in judgment on Sammy’s part and the sad part about it is they do not even realize the silly check out boy is slandering them silently. While he is a largely critical person, Sammy’s faults are the result of the mind-numbing work of his chosen profession. Sammy’s perpetual boredom plagues him and is the cause of his judging other people. He admits his boredom, saying “the store’s pretty empty, it being Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again”(371).
Apparently, the only solution to ending the tedium is to keep his mind focused on those girls, those fascinating girls in nothing but bathing suits. Sammy becomes agitated with his job, the dullness of it, and essentially the entire grocery selling profession, and gallantly quits his job to defend the girls’ innocence from the manager. His hopes to gain their attention and perhaps affection but alas, they leave him jobless, hopeless, and clueless about his life. Updike’s portrait of the simple Sammy and his plain existence exercises the idea that every minimal man has a complexity that lies quietly in the mind.
The essential self is innocent, and when it tastes its own innocence knows that it lives forever. -John Updike (b. 1932), U.S. author, critic. Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, ch. 1 (1989)-
Innocence is a quality that is often taken for granted and abused. We never know when we lose it and it is seemingly gone forever. We are ignorant of our innocence until we realize that it has left us. Innocence is not ignorance, however, it lacks knowledge in the same manner. It is based more on naivety or rather, the lack of experience we have. In John Updike’s “A&P” the innocent of a local grocery store break through their blindness and daily routines in order to shed some light onto a part of reality that they have been missing. This loss of innocence, and realization of such a loss, is John Updike’s central theme in “A&P”.
“A&P” starts with three girls walking into a grocery store wearing only bathing suits and immediately catching the eye of a young, nineteen years old named Sammy. The girls and Sammy are innocent yet in different ways. The girls seemed to be different from Sammy as they looked and acted as though they did not live in his town. The girls were ignorant of Sammy’s local culture as they seemingly had spent the day at the beach, and had not lived in his town nor spent much time in it at all.
“The one that caught my eye first was the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it”(79). John Updike has Sammy describe these girls in such great detail in order to point out their untouched nature.
These girls did not wear any makeup, and they barely had any clothes on at all. They had nothing to hide from those who chose to judge them in this local everday grocery store. With this description Sammy shows how these girls were able to upset the performance of the store by not conforming to the dress code of the store.
But how can one be guilty of something if they don’t know what they have done wrong? This is one of Updike’s main points. The girls are innocent because they do not know about any dress code, therefore they don’t even think twice about walking in the store with bathing suits on.
These girls walked calmly and with a certain poise that showed that they were not nervous and felt no embarrassment. Their confidence clearly demonstrates that these three girls had no realization that they had violated a domestic folkway. By violating the custom of this humble town, these girls find their innocence to be stolen by the natives as their entire existence is judged solely on their appearance.
Sammy sizes one of them up when he said “She must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn’t tip. Not this queen” (80). On no basis besides her looks, Sammy completely took away the innocence osf this girl’s persona by inventing one in his mind.
However, Sammy comes to realize that he was not alone in sizing up the girls when he says, ” Mcmahon was patting his mouth and looking after them sizing up their joints. Poor Kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn’t help it”(81). Not only were these young girls being judged, but they were also losing some of their sexual innocence as young and old men alike check them out as they paraded themselves throughout the store. Not only were men watching them, but housewives in the A&P can’t help looking either.
The people who were startled by these girls were described by Sammy as sheep. I believe he called them sheep because these peoples’ innocence was based upon their routines. “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle- the girls were walking against the usual traffic- were pretty hilarious”(80). The status quo of this small town was disrupted by these girls in many different ways which led the sheep to become frozen from this tremor in their routine.
Sammy’s town daily consisted of local women and their children running irons, doing chores, going to school, and many other commonplace routines of the “typical” late fifties suburban life. The girls did not fit into this town’s innocent everyday habits and they turn the world upside down for the sheep, even though they were just there for minutes.
In those few minutes, the girls were also judged by what they were witnessed purchasing. Queenie, as Sammy calls her, picked up some herring snacks like her mother had asked her to. Simply by looking at that jar of herring snacks Sammy determines for himself what Queenie’s home life must be like and he describes what an event in her living room as, “her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big glass plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them” (81). Therefore Sammy has decided that just by purchasing herring snacks, Queenie is from a higher socioeconomic background.
When the girls are finally confronted about the display they had put on for the entire store, they are surprised. Lengel, the store manager approaches them and tells them that they have to be decent when they come into A&P. However, according to the girls, they are decently dressed and they really don’t understand what the problems are as they are unaware of the rules of the store. The manager embarrassed the three girls when he made a scene out of their appearance and they quickly left the store after Sammy rang up their purchase.
The purchase, the fact that the girls had not known what they’ve done and Lengel yelling at the girls made Sammy rashly quit his job. Sammy quit in order to be the girls’ hero and to show the town that the girls had done nothing wrong. However, he didn’t accomplish those two goals, instead, he realized what happened to his own innocence. His job was taking away his innocent youthful ways. His bowtie and apron strip of the chance to be as free as the girls who he admired.
John Updike’s “A&P” shows how one disruption in our lives can show us that in some ways we are still innocent and in other ways, we have had innocence taken away by others. The girls, Sammy, and the customers of the store are all shown their fragile innocence in just a few minutes. The girls were nave of local folkways. Sammy was stuck in a job and his youth was abused by the grocery store.
The sheep whose entire lives could be summed by one day of their lives were shown that different things could happen. All these people were innocent in some way and had it stolen by each other and only after something changed their routines did they realize what they lost.