Critical Analysis of "A&P" Short Story by John
Critical Analysis of "A&P" Short Story by John Updike
“Looking back in the big windows, over the bags of peat moss and aluminum lawn furniture stacked on the pavement, I could see Lengel in my place in the slot, checking the sheep through. His face was dark and gray and his back stiff, as if he’d just received an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.”(Updike737)
An epiphany is an instance of sudden truth brought about by a mundane event. In the John Updike classic “A&P,”the main character, Sammy, experiences just that. First published in the July 22, 1961 issue of The New Yorker, the reader can’t help but wonder if the story was written to reflect the radical changes that were taking place in society during this period. Updike uses a unique setting and a variety of characters to help the reader understand that Sammy’s act was not that of a hormone driven 19 year old, but actually the decision of a man who refuses to become a “sheep.”
The title setting was perfect to symbolize the structure that lies within the society that surrounds Sammy. It is designed the guide people in one direction, and it doesn’t require much thought. The “sheep” go up and down the aisles, pushing their carts and checking off their lists. The flourescent lights provide a false sense of sunlight in an otherwise dreary setting. The only disruption in the flow of traffic is the sight of “Queenie” and her two followers.
“The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle-the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything)-were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie’s white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back in their own baskets and on they pushed.”(Updike 734)
The first characters to be mentioned in the story are actually the main focus of Sammy’s attention throughout. “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.”(Updike 733) Many would simply dismiss this story as nothing but a romantic dream, but actually these girls represent much more than a mere sex symbol. While Sammy does take intrest in the aesthetic qualities they...