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The A&P by John Updike

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A&P is one of John Updike’s short stories. It was written way back in 1961. It is a short story of a teenage boy who took a stand for what he thinks is right but was faced with disappointment.

The young narrator in A&P is Sammy and he narrates the story in the first person. The language that is used by the narrator is that of a teenage boy. Sammy epitomizes a teenage boy in many ways. Basically, he is interested in girls and as usual bored with his job in a grocery store.

Throughout the text, his speech was informal which highlights his individuality and propensity to question authority. Slang expressions filled his sentence structure and diction. Diction means word choice. Sammy’s diction is filled with cynicism and romantic notions. The choice of words in the story is of course typical to that of a teenage boy. With regards to his sentence structure, they are relatively simple and easy to understand because there aren’t any complicated, wordy passages. They are also not too long which only adds to the ‘present feel’ of the story.

Updike used onomatopoeia in this story. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that imitate the sounds of the words they denote. For example, he used bing, gung, splat to imitate the sound of the register keys and the drawer as it flies out. Colloquial expressions are also visible in the text. The line “she was a chunky kid…broad soft-looking can…. at the top of the backs of her legs” is one of the many colloquial expressions in the story. Basically that sentence refers to the subject’s posterior. Updike also used a number of metaphors to refer to body parts. Some of these are crescents, moons, etc. Many of the sentences appear as phrases which gives way to a quick reading pace.

The use of hyperbole is also evident in the text. Hyperbole is a figure of speech. It uses exaggeration to create emphasis. It should not be taken literally when used to express strong feelings or to make a strong impression. Irony can be achieved by using hyperbole through exaggeration or by using understatements

.           Here in A&P, Sammy viewed people by way of hyperbole. An example would be “…..with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows. . .”. The verbal irony of hyperbole found in the words of this story puts a picture into the readers mind. Also, it creates a humorous effect to the story. They are also used to make a point in a light – hearted way and to poke fun about someone or something.

             Ultimately, the noble act and honesty that  Sammy has executed in the story is not noticed by many and fewer even appreciates it. Basically the story is a commentary about  the harsh capitalist society wherein the people are measured with their productivity and not with innocent gestures or noble acts of kindness.

I think the reason why John Updike wrote A&P is because he wanted to showcase the human behavior. To show to us that people will ultimately do whatever they want, or feel is necessary in a certain situation. Human behavior, as unpredictable and complex as it is, is always an interesting thing to reflect on and think about.

Works Cited

“Updike”. A&P. 12 July 2008. http://www.tiger-town.com/whatnot/updike/

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