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Compare and Contrast: A&P and Everyday Use Essay

A&P is a short story written by American writer John Updike. The story takes place during the summer in a small New England town where everything seems ordinary and gray. The story stars Sammy a nineteen-year-old boy working the checkout line of grocery store by the name of A&P. Sammy is working one day when in walks three teenage girls, wearing only their bathing suits. He is quickly infatuated by the scene for it is not one he comes across to often and begins to watch the girls closely. Sammy pays close attention to the appearance of the girls naming each one according to how he views them, there is “Plaid” the chunky one who got her name due to her swimsuit, “Big Tall Goony Goony” who he describes as attractive but falling short to “Queenie”, the girl who Sammy seems to be most infatuated with, she is the most striking out of the bunch getting her name due to being the leader of the group.

Sammy pays close attention to the three girls all the way to the point where they finally come to his register where they are confronted by his manager Lengel a very conservative man who ask the girls to come with their shoulders covered the next time they wish to enter his store. This sparks Sammy to quit and to chase the girls outside where to his surprise are gone.

Everyday Use is a short story written by American author Alice Walker. The story takes place in the late 1900’s in the south in a house that was rebuilt after it was burned down by a ferocious fire. The story stars Mama a big-boned woman with hands that are rough from years of physical labor that is poor and uneducated due to never being given the opportunity to break out of her rural life, she is also the story’s narrator. Mama and her daughter Maggie who is shy and self conscience due to her being burned and scarred by the fire that took down their house wait outside their home for the arrival of her older daughter Dee who is the exact opposite of Maggie being that she is educated and quite confident.

Dee arrives at the home of her mother with not only a new man, but a new look, she is very colorful and into her “heritage”. Mama, Maggie, Dee, and Dee’s male friend have dinner in which Dee tells Mama what she’s been doing with herself and ends with Dee wanting to leave with the butter churn. The butter churn isn’t the only item which Dee would like to leave with, she also wants two quilts made by her ancestors, but Mama says no for they are promised to her sister Maggie. Dee leaves the house outraged telling her mother she doesn’t understand her heritage.

Two scenes that I feel share a common message is Sammy’s decision to quit A&P and Mama’s decision to not let Dee have her way and give Maggie the quilt. Both characters decided this would be their time to take a stand against something they felt was not right. For Sammy it was a decision driven by his lust for Queenie, for Mama it was finally saying no to the daughter who she feels unappreciated by. Sammy’s decision ends with him having no job and no women, but a better sense of what he wants in life which is a desire to get away from the norm that is his job and town and go out and experience opportunities beyond his limit.

Mama’s decision had the opposite effect of what Sammy’s had, she not only grew closer to her daughter Maggie, but she realized that she’s happy being the woman she is, she doesn’t have to change herself . Mama is proud of her life and of being a practical hardworking woman. Both A&P and Everyday Use are similar in the fact that we have characters struggling to find out what it is they want from their lives, but are different in the sense of what the characters actually realize they want.

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