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Details for routine in literature

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Notice how artfully Updike arranges details to set the story in a perfectly ordinary supermarket. What details stand out for you as particularly true to life? What does this close attention to detail contribute to the story?

In “A & P,” Updike depicts a very realistic supermarket. Particularly true to life are the descriptions of the goods: “they all three of them went up the cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-rice-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft drinks-crackers-and-cookies aisle,” and of the supermarket’s customers: the “sheep pushing their carts” and the “houseslaves in pin curlers.

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” The close attention to details highlights the reality of the supermarket.

The supermarket is like a church, where “sheep” congregate. The contrast that this creates against Queenie emphasizes her social distance from them, and contributes to an understanding of Sammy’s reasons for his behavior at the end of the story.

How fully does Updike draw the character of Sammy? What traits (admirable or otherwise) does Sammy show? Is he any less a hero for wanting the girls to notice his heroism? To what extent is he more thoroughly and fully portrayed than the doctor in “Godfather Death”?

We get to know Sammy’s idealistic side, but we still don’t know what kind of a person (as a friend, for instance) he would be.

Still, we get to know quite a significant bit about Sammy. Like the doctor in “Godfather Death,” Sammy is very appreciative of feminine physical beauty, and like the doctor, Sammy is willing to defy authority. However, this is just about the extent of our knowledge about the doctor, while we know so much more about Sammy. We know that he has a somewhat “normal” sense of humor (exemplified when he jokes with Stokesie: “‘Darling,’ I said. ‘Hold me tight.’”). We know that he is a little disgusted with the adult world that exists in the supermarket, and we know that he has ideals that he wants to live up to. We also know that he like to be chivalrous and heroic. It must be realized, however, that Sammy is not less of a hero for wanting to be noticed for his heroism. Being a hero is almost just an afterthought for him. Quitting his job was something he did more for himself.

What part of the story seems to be the exposition? Of what value to the story is the carefully detailed portrait of Queenie, the leader of the three girls?

We get to learn in the beginning that Sammy works in a supermarket, but the exposition goes all the way to almost two-thirds into the story, when Sammy tells the reader that “I slid right down her voice into her living room,” by which the reader realizes the extent of the difference in social standing between Queenie and Sammy. Sammy imagines Queenie’s living room, with 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,” comparing them to his parents, who, when they “have somebody over they get lemonade….” It is important that we learn that “Queenie” is from the “upper class,” because this puts Sammy’s behavior until the end of the story into the proper perspective.

As the story develops, do you detect any change in Sammy’s feelings toward the girls?

Sammy’s attitude towards the girls does change as the narrative unfolds. Before the girls entered the supermarket, Sammy hated everything about it. But the girls were different. At first, he ogles them and then focuses on “Queenie,” meticulously describing her attractive features. He also exhibits a bit of male chauvinism: “You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?).” He then sympathizes with them when he sees how someone eyes them with lust: “Poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn’t help it.” When he hears Queenie’s voice and he slides “right down her voice into her living room,” Queenie’s social status becomes cemented in his mind. Finally, Queenie becomes so significant that he wants to be acknowledged as their “unsuspected hero.” Thus, his attitude towards the girls goes from mild interest in the beginning, and then admiration for Queenie, and finally becomes a conscious desire to be like them, which leads to his quitting his job.

Where in “A & P” does the dramatic conflict become apparent? What moment in the story brings the crisis? What is the climax of the story?

From the narrative’s first sentence (“In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits.”) there are already suggestions of the coming conflict. The girls, in their scandalous bathing suits, enter the world of the supermarket, where the “sheep” walk about in stupid conformity. The real conflict then starts when Lengel reprimands the girls: “Girls, this isn’t the beach.” After Sammy then initially says “I quit,” the moment of crisis comes when Lengel asks Sammy: “Did you say something, Sammy?” because Sammy must then decide whether he should live up to his sudden impulse to quit his job. Finally, the climax comes when Sammy moves to leave the supermarket.

Why, exactly, does Sammy quit his job?

Unlike what may be apparent, Sammy did not quit his job merely to be a hero to the girls. While the idea of his chivalry and heroism strengthened his resolve to quit, he did it primarily for himself. We can see from the way he describes the people in the supermarket that he despises them, and he despises his job. Sammy feels that he does not belong there. Sammy wanted freedom; he did not want to be one of the sheep, but wanted to belong to Queenie’s world. The idea of heroism was only a catalyst; the desire for something better had been in Sammy for a long time. It is true, however, that Queenie’s allure had much to do with his decision. It is doubtful if Sammy would have quit if it had not been someone like Queenie who got reprimanded by the manager. He would probably have waited for something else to trigger his rebellion.

Does anything lead you to expect Sammy to make some gesture of sympathy for the three girls? What incident earlier in the story (before Sammy quits) seems a foreshadowing?

In the beginning of the narrative, when Sammy starts describing the girls, who obviously contrast with the other customers of the supermarket, we get an inkling of Sammy’s desire to ascend into a better station in life, to a station similar to that of the girls. Sammy definitely does not sympathize with the supermarket’s customers (the “sheep”); this suggests that he would sympathize with the girls, who contrasted very much with the sheep. All the derision he expresses against the supermarket (in which “the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy”), and the contrast that the girls presented against them, suggests that he may try to do something for the girls when something undesirable happens to them. Additionally, when he says “Poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn’t help it,” this likelihood of his sympathy becomes even more apparent.

What do you understand from the conclusion of the story? What does Sammy mean when he acknowledges “how hard the world was going to be…hereafter”?

By quitting his job, Sammy has taken one of his first “adult” steps. Before this, he has been complacently doing his dreary job. Quitting his job is one of his first forays into maturity. When he acknowledges “how hard the world was going to be…hereafter,” he realizes that his experiences of being at odds with society are only beginning. He also believes that “once you begin a gesture, it’s fatal not to go through with it,” which means that he has committed himself to this goal of liberation from “sheephood.” Sammy has ideals that he wants to live up to, but he realizes that the “sheep” of the world will make it difficult for him.

What comment does Updike—through Sammy—make on supermarket society?

An important theme of “A & P” is conformity. To Sammy, the girls—especially Queenie—represents individuality and independence amidst the mindless conformity of the “sheep” in the supermarket. Until the girls show up, Sammy’s job and life in the supermarket was dull and meaningless. Updike uses the supermarket as an allegory for the adult world, and Updike thus uses Sammy to point out that some forms of very undesirable conformity exists.

Cite this Details for routine in literature

Details for routine in literature. (2016, Jun 03). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/details-for-routine-in-literature/

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