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On A&P by John Updike - Essay Example

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Name of Professor Social Inequality in John Updike’s ‘A&P’ John Updike portrays in his short story ‘A&P’ the enduring social inequality in American society. Sammy, the narrator, is explaining why he all of a sudden gave up his work as a cashier in the A&P supermarket…
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On A&P by John Updike
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On A&P by John Updike

As they glanced through the merchandises, Sammy stares at them and afterward admires the most attractive and most imposing of the three. He calls her Queenie. When Lengel, the manager of the supermarket, scolds the three girls for being so indecently dressed, Sammy hastily quits his job to show his boss and the girls that he can fight for his principle. Even though the plot is straightforward, the central theme of the narrative is powerful: a dignified act that represents a useless attempt to defy socioeconomic hierarchy. The social inequality that forms the foundation of the narrative is seen through the point of view of Sammy. The teenage girls are obviously from an upper class because of the aura they exude and their noticeable difference from the other customers in the store. At this point, the issue of social class is highlighted (Kirszner & Mandell 1996, 1512). Sammy describes the other customers in a derogatory way, such as “an old party in baggy gray pants” and “house slaves in pin curlers” (Kirszner & Mandell 1998, 73). ...
Nevertheless, both Sammy and Queenie behave in ways that are somewhat similar. Both are making an attempt to fit into new realities, with Queenie wanting to experience the life ‘below’ and Sammy struggling to experience the life ‘above’ (Searles 26). As Queenie approaches the cashier, Sammy sees, “Now her hands are empty, not a ring or a bracelet,… and I wonder where the money’s coming from. Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top” (Kirszner & Mandell 1998, 74). Through this act, she not merely tries her sexual ability but also goes down to the ‘supermarket’ class. It is obvious from the story that the supermarket caters to the low class, as shown in the characteristics of most of its customers. Yet Sammy is aware of the social and economic gap between him and Queenie (Kirszner & Mandell 17): I slid right down her voice into her living room. 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 plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them. When my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it’s a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with “They’ll Do It Every Time” cartoons stencilled on. However, by quitting his job, Sammy defies economic and social boundaries. Even though the decision of Sammy to quit his job is reckless and unwise, it seems that he is making a decisive opposition against what he believes is social prejudice (Searles 29). But not like Queenie’s boldness, Sammy’s insubordination and rebelliousness will have lasting outcomes. Sammy’s ... Read More
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