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John Updike A&P “Realist vs. Opportunist”

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    Life is filled with opportunities; some are life changing however most are not. An individual faces opportunities everyday of their life actually, but what makes them decide whether to follow through with it or simply keep going about the life they have? That is the difference between an opportunist and a realist. Realist defined as: one who is inclined to literal truth and pragmatism (dictionary. com). Opportunist being the opposite of that as someone who is inclined to take advantage of opportunities with no regard towards consequences.

    In John Updike’s “A & P” Sammy the main character is greatly different from his co-worker Stoskie, how do these characters compare to one another as well as why is Sammy an opportunist while Stoskie is a realist? Sammy is an opportunist because he loves the thrill in his life, while Stoskie settles for being a realist because he likes repetition, although both characters are very different they are also similar in seeking comfort.

    Stoskie the self proclaimed future manager for the A & P grocery store is a 22 year old male that is the realist in John Updike’s story. Stoskie is very content with the life he has, his life consists of his wife, two kids and the position he holds working at the grocery store. Stoskie has his life set and settled at a very young 22 years old. Why is Stoskie a realist though and already have his life planned out, it is because he likes repetition. The feeling of waking up every day and knowing exactly what he is going to be doing each day is satisfying to him.

    Henry Wai-chung Yeung says “critical realism is a method,” he further states that through different form of research it can be shown that repetitive actions are the sign of true realist because it is what they are comfortable with. Stoskie feels comfortable working at the A & P, because he performs the same duties over and over again. In the story Sammy explains being a cashier as, “after you do it enough, it begins to make a little song, that you hear the words to. Stoskie is not the character pursuing and interested in the three girls who are walking around the store because that would be throwing him a curve ball and he would not know how to act since it is out of his comfort from being a realist. On the other hand, Sammy the more outgoing character who is 19 years old and known as the opportunist of this story comes across very interesting, he quits his job at the A & P for three random girls that walked into the grocery store, but why? Sammy already made the decision to quit working there before the girls even walked into the store.

    Sammy is an opportunist for more reasons than quitting his job though; he does not plan everything out, just like he did not plan when he was going to quit. He takes life as it comes to him, in stride and does not look at the decision he is making till it’s too late to change them. In the story he says, “and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter (Updike 534). ” This is the sign of a true opportunist: “one who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end, often with no regard for principles or consequences (dictionary. om). ” Lawrence Jay Dessner describes Sammy’s action of quitting his job as, “Lack of concern for the consequences of his precipitous renunciation of his job. ” Sammy did take the opportunity that was handed to him, and being the opportunist he is, it backfired on him because of the disregard of consequences, in this case he is now left with no income as well as hurting his parents because they are good friends with the store manager. An opportunist and a realist are considered to be opposites of each other, and Updike’s “A & P,” is a great example of this.

    Sammy the outgoing opportunist has adventure and excitement in his life that always keeps him on his toes. Stoskie on the other hand is the complete opposite. At one point during the story and old lady and the teenage girls are approaching the registers almost at the same time. The elderly woman is very symbolic of being settled and non-eccentric because of her old age much like a realist and stoskie. However the teenage girls half naked and barefoot are symbolic of an opportunist like Sammy because of their outgoing life filled with adventure and excitement.

    The elderly woman ends up getting to the register line first and chooses Stoskie’s register while the teenage girls choose Sammy’s register. Sammy is kept on his toes all through this story because that is what he likes, he could have been more like Stoskie but it is in his nature to seek the adventure and action of being the opportunist. While the girls were patrolling up and down the aisles of the grocery store Sammy was just waiting for something to happen, he did not know what, but he knew it was coming.

    He was not paying attention to his duties as a worker but instead is described as “Sammy, from his work station, first ogles them and then idealizes the prettiest and most confident of the three (Dessner par 3). ” Stoskie being the type of person he is, a realist realizes what is going on with the girls and takes but only a few seconds off of his duties to examine the girls. He does not pursue further interest in the girls walking about the store because his attitude was aimed towards completing his duties as a cashier.

    Although Stoskie and Sammy are two very different people they both still have one thing in common. Both characters need comfort in their lives, which is why they are an opportunist or a realist. Sammy finds comfort in his life the way it is, although many may think that the thrill he has in life by living on the edge is not very comforting Sammy does. On the other hand Stoskie is all about comfort, he loves knowing what he will be doing everyday and tries to avoid risky situations in life. In my mind comfort is what everybody seeks in life, without comfort there is worrying.

    The life of an opportunist is vastly different than those of a realist. Stoskie is a realist because he accepts his life and feels comfortable in his own world doing things over and over again. Sammy at a young 19 years old lives his life as an opportunist, he likes trying new things and does not think about his actions till it is too late. Both characters are different people who live their lives differently because it is what makes them comfortable. John Updikes “A & P” can be called a classic because the underlying character traits add so much to this story.

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