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"A&P" By John Updike

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Danny Griffin

on 13 November 2014

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Transcript of "A&P" By John Updike

"A&P" By John Updike
Thesis
John Updike’s “A&P” uses class distinction, heroic irony, and a life-changing epiphany to convey the universal idea that romantic notions can be crushed by the realistic world.
Class Distinction
Class distinction is evident in the difference between Sammy's life and the three girls. The girls come from the upper class and live a life of luxury while Sammy is from the working class.
Sammy's Epiphany
Sammy's epiphany comes at the end of the story when he realizes the impact that him quitting will have on his life and that his sacrifice may not have been worth it.
Heroic Irony
Sammy exhibits heroic irony when his heroic deed goes unrewarded. In fact, not only does his deed go unrewarded, it negatively affects his life.
Although Sammy quits with good intentions in mind, his act of heroism ultimately backfires on him. Not only does he not get any appreciation from the girls, he is also a working class kid that is unemployed and he likely upset his parents. After realizing the magnitude of his decision to quit, Sammy decides to still follow through with it: "It seems to me that once you begin a gesture it's fatal to not go through with it." [756].
Because Sammy is part of the working class, being unemployed will likely have a significant impact on his life. He started the day having a stable job and ended the day unemployed. He fails to realize that sacrificing his job and financial security for a few rich girls who are uninterested in him is not a good idea until it is too late. He realizes this immediately after he leaves the grocery story and sees that the girls are gone: "My stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be for me hereafter." [757].
Connection to Universal Idea
Sammy's epiphany is tied to the universal idea because his romantic act had more of a negative impact on his life than it did positive. The impact quitting will have on his life is not balanced out by a of reward or appreciation, like he expected it to be. He realizes it was not worth it. Sammy will likely be reminded of the moment whenever he tries to do something romantic that involves risk.
It is clear by their bathing suits and tans that the girls have just come back from a beach trip. They are vacationing while Sammy is working. They represent wealth and excess. Describing the leader of the girls Sammy says, "She had sort of oaky hair that the sun and salt had bleached, done up in a bun that was unraveling, and a kind of prim face." [753]. The leader (dubbed the queen by Sammy) is described as a superstar.
Connection to Universal Idea
Class distinction is connected to the universal idea because Sammy's deed goes unrewarded partly because of the fact that they come from two different worlds. "The girls, and who'd blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say 'I quit' to Lengel quick loud enough for them to hear, hoping they'll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero." [756]. Although Sammy desperately wishes for the girls to stop and show some appreciation for his action, they ultimately do not because they are in a higher social class and may either not want to associate themselves with somebody from the working class or they may not see anything special about his action because they are used to this kind of special treatment.
Connection to Universal Idea
The heroic irony Sammy exhibits is related to the universal idea because Sammy ultimately quits not only for moral reasons, but also for a romantic reason, evident in his desire to talk to the girls. His romantic notions are crushed by reality when the girls walk out of the store, unappreciative. No matter how romantic he is, there is no escaping the reality that they are from two different worlds and nothing could ever work out between them, due to different societal roles and upbringings.
Conclusion
In conclusion, Updike effectively conveys the universal idea that romantic notions are often crushed by the real world through a 17 year old who experiences class distinction, heroic irony, and a life-changing epiphany in an experience at a grocery store he is employed at.
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