A&P John Updike Setting


The A&P John Updike setting is a small town in the northeastern United States, most likely in New England. The story takes place in the summertime, and the weather is hot. The A&P grocery store is the main setting of the story, and it is where the majority of the action takes place. The store is described as being “old-fashioned”, with narrow aisles and high shelves. There are also several other stores mentioned in the story, including a drugstore, a bakery, and a gas station.

A lot of the events that happen inside the store are based on real-life experiences that Updike had when he was younger. The small-town setting is also used to show how people can be judgmental and hypocritical.

In this novel, Updike employs the setting to deliver humor. When three bikini-clad girls walk in, Sammy is ringing up an older woman’s purchases. Of course, while focusing on something else, Sammy forgets what he is doing briefly, and rings up a box of HiHo crackers twice before the old woman catches the error (Updike 316).

‘She’s one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows who I know it made her day to trip me up,’; thinks Sammy of the elderly woman (Updike 316). All of the other customers are described by Updike as being amusing.

One man is described to have a ‘big soft beefy-cleavy head…with straw-colored hair’ (Updike 317) that made him look like a ‘clown’. A woman wearing curlers and a green kerchief over her head is said to look like she had ‘a small vulpine face’ (Updike 317). Even the girls that Sammy is interested in are described in a humorous way.

One has ‘skin that had turned brown as Indian leather’ from too much sun (Updike 316), while the other two have skin that is ‘pale as salt’ (Updike 316). This description shows that Sammy does not really see these girls as anything special, but is just interested in them because they are different from the other customers in the store.

The setting of the A&P is also used to show how Sammy feels trapped. He is stuck working in a grocery store that he hates and cannot seem to get away from. The store is described as being ‘like most A&P’s… nothing special to see’ (Updike 316). It is ‘long and narrow and boring’ with fluorescent lights that give everything a ‘blinding glare’ (Updike 316).

The aisles are lined with ‘canned goods on one side and meat on the other’ and there is a ‘cash register at the front and piles of cans and boxes at the back’ (Updike 316). This description makes the store seem very boring and monotonous, which is how Sammy must feel working there. He is stuck in this ‘cage’ with no way to escape.

The A&P setting is also used to contrast the girls that Sammy is interested in. They are described as being ‘in walking shorts that come down to about where their knees begin, and they wore those little white bobby socks rolled over just below their kneecaps, and canvas sneakers with rubber soles’ (Updike 316). This description makes them seem very different from the other customers in the store.

The sheep are so named because they move about the store without any concern except for what is on their lists (Updike 318). The event also adds to the tale’s realism, allowing everything described to be seen by a reader. Updike paints pictures with words when describing goods in the shop. ‘[C]at-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-rice-raisinsseasoningsspreadsspaghetti soft drinkscrackers andcookies aisle,’ as Sammy watches the girls go through the store, they go.’

Aisle after aisle is filled with different items that give the A&P a never-ending feeling. This is another factor which could lead to shoppers feeling lost or confused in the store. The A&P is also described as being ‘long and narrow’; (Updike 317). This could be seen as a way of leading people through the store and keeping them moving until they reach the checkouts. It also means that there are fewer places for people to congregate and cause problems.

The A&P in John Updike’s short story is more than just a grocery store; it is a place where the lives of the characters intersect and where the reader gets a glimpse into their lives. The A&P is a place of routine and boredom for the main character, Sammy. He is an unassuming young man who works at the A&P and does his best to stay out of trouble. The A&P is also a place of excitement for the three girls who come into the store wearing nothing but their bathing suits.

They are a welcome diversion from the mundane tasks of grocery shopping for Sammy and the other customers in the store. The A&P is also a place of opportunity for Sammy, as he has the opportunity to impress the girls by quitting his job in protest of their treatment by the store’s manager. In John Updike’s short story, “A&P”, the A&P itself is almost a character in the story, as it plays an important role in the lives of the characters.

The girls come to the store for a can of ‘Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream,’ which is why they journey there; (Updike 319). The cash register’s noises also add to the sense of realism, as Updike recites the cash register song: I go through the punches, 4,9, GROC, TOT- it’s more complicated than you think and after you do it enough times, it starts making a little song that you hear words to in my case “Hello (bing) there,” you say. You’re (gung) happy pee-pul.” The splat being the drawer flying out.

Most people can relate to being in a store, and A&P is no different. There are A&P’s all over the world and the girls’ experience is one that many can relate to. The A&P in the story is located in a town called Tarbox on Cape Cod. The time period is the early 1960’s. (Updike) The social setting of the story is important because it helps to set the stage for the conflict that Sammy faces. Sammy is working at the A&P when three girls, wearing only their bathing suits, walk into the store.

Sammy is immediately attracted to them and begins to ogle them as they shop. This creates conflict because it is not appropriate behavior for someone who is supposed to be working. Sammy continues to stare at the girls and makes comments about their appearance, which furthers the conflict. The climax of the story occurs when Sammy quits his job in order to defend the girls from being harassed by the A&P manager. This act of defiance leads to Sammy’s eventual downfall, as he is left without a job or any prospects for the future.

First, Sammy thinks that Updike is the short one since he is wearing a plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid with a great tan who had those two crescent-shaped white areas right where the sun never seemed to shine at the tops of her thighs.

A tall A-line shift with a kind of fluttery white organdy thing around the yoke, and white sandals with heels so high she was sort of coming down on her toes. She was wearing little cat-eye glasses with clear plastic rims and heavy double crescent-shaped earrings. (317) Sammy describes the girls as “sheep” because they follow the crowd into A&P dressed in their bathing suits when it is against store policy. (Updike 316)

Sammy works at A&P and is bored with his job as a cashier. He stands around “gawking” at the girls.. When the girls are confronted by the manager about their attire, they do not defend themselves or argue, but “sheepishly” follow his instructions and leave the store. Sammy quits his job in protest and leaves with the girls.

In the end, Lengel tells the girls that are not to return to the store unless their shoulders are covered. Sammy believes this discussion is too harsh for three beautiful ladies, so he decides to take on their role as hero. He informs Lengel that he’s quitting his job. He then removes his apron and folds it before placing A & P’s bowtie on top of it. As he walks out into the parking lot in the searing heat, he understands how difficult life will soon be for him. Lengel may see this statement as juvenile, but to Sammy, he is standing up for what he believes in.


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