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Literary Analysis for John Updike’s A&P Essay

In John Updike’s A&P, a story of young man’s wasted effort on heroism is chronicled along with the fact that he has made a wrong decision on the situation. Sammy, a young teenager (assumed in the story), works as a cashier in A&P, a supermarket that caters to the different needs of consumers. One day, in an otherwise ordinary day, in walks three girls clad in skimpy bathing suits which capture the attention of everyone in the market, including the manager who reprimands them for such clothes.

As the girls get embarrassed and leave the store, Sammy rushes to their defence and quits on the spot as he thinks that what the manager has done is unjustified. Sammy feels like a hero to the girls and leaves the store to rush after the girls, not knowing that the girls have long left without noticing Sammy’s “valiant” effort (Updike 596-601).

In the story, there are many types of literary techniques which are evident. However, the three that stand out among the rest are the foreshadowing implemented by the author and narrator, the irony in the resolution, and symbolisms in the short story. Firstly, the foreshadowing can be seen in two ways. First, it can be perceived in terms of how the author uses a rather capturing opening of the story which gives a clue to the reader that something is bound to happen in the story and on that day in Sammy’s rather ordinary life.

By using Sammy’s voice, there are allusions that something great is about to happen in the moment that the three girls walked in inside A&P and that Sammy’s life will never be the same again. The other aspect of foreshadowing can even be seen as an “en medias res” technique in the story. This is because in the middle of the story, the narrator reveals that what he is narrating has already happened and is not occurring. Hence, he is not narrating events but actually re-telling them.

The other two literary techniques implemented in the short story is the use of irony which can be found in the conclusion of A&P and the symbolisms. Irony of circumstance is seen when Sammy quits his job for the girls when the girls do not even realize that he has done that. Hence, his attempt on being a “hero” is futile since the girls do not even think that they need one or that someone has rescued or stood up for them. The third and last literary technique is the usage of symbolisms.

There are two symbolisms in the story: the supermarket itself and the three girls. The supermarket symbolizes the beginning chapter of Sammy’s life wherein he gets a taste of the different upsetting things that can happen in a person’s life; the three girls can represent the various forms of temptations any person encounters which can lead him to make wrong decisions.

In conclusion, the use of literary techniques in any literature is very important since it adds more meaning, depth, and colour. Though any form of literature can do away with literary techniques, such aspects of literature make any written work more poignant, impacting, interesting, and meaningful.

Works Cited

Updike, John. “A&P.” The Early Stories: 1953-1975. New York: Ballantine Books, 2003.          596-601. Print.


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