How Can A And P Be Thought Of As Bildungsroman

Essay add: 24-10-2015, 21:50   /   Views: 200

The immaturities of Sammy are thoroughly highlighted throughout the beginning of the story. At the start of the story, Sammy describes a customer that he is attending to as "one of these cash-registers-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbone". (Updike, 1961) This dehumanizing and calling of names shows the immaturity of Sammy. This immaturity is further reinforced when Sammy scrutinizes the three girls walking into the store clad only in their bathing suits with much sexual zest.

He puts his attention on their "seams on the bra" (Updike, 1961), "primma donna legs" (Updike, 1961), bra straps and that "they were off her shoulders looped loose around the cool tops of her arms" (Updike, 1961) and that the "clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones" (Updike, 1961) was "more than pretty" (Updike, 1961) His description of them shows the sexual tension that one will expect an adolescent to have thus reinforces his immaturity at the start of the story.The transition or the process of growing up can be seen through his struggles and his unhappiness towards society and the role he had to fit in. Sammy is obviously disgruntled with the way he live his life now, or in future.

Appropriately set in a Supermarket where everything is categorized and systematic as can be seen from his comment "cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal…..) (Updike, 1961), he feels even more the monotony and prosaic routine of his life. He does not like his current lifestyle and aspires to get out of it. This struggle will be the catalyst or transition of his coming of age.

His enthusiastic and vigilant nature, as can be seen from his active description of the girls and things around him, seemingly shows another side of him that does not belong to this mundane and "sheep-like" society. This side of him is further juxtaposed with the flock of "sheep" around him. As aptly put by him, "I bet you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists." (Updike, 1961)Finally, the affirmation of his moral and psychological growth can be seen in the last part of the story. Sammy quits his job as he finally came through all his struggles and unhappiness to make a stand, to find his place in society. His action of quitting is seen by many as to impress the girls and to become a 'hero'.

However, on another level, it can be seen as him making a life changing decision, overcoming all societal norms and defying the orders of his superior, his parents whom he is much dependent on and lastly, the society. This decision sets about much realization as he said "It's true, I don't. But it seems to me that once begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it." (Updike, 1961), another epiphany, sadly is his realization of just "how hard the world was going to be to him hereafter." (Updike, 1961) The realizations mainly conclude his coming of age, though not positive but nonetheless, growing up still.

There was a class struggle within Sammy throughout the story as he struggles to break free of his class and aspire to improve and climb upwards. The decision to quit is based not only morally but he desire to achieve growth in his status in society. This social growth, similar to other bildungsroman like Great Expectations, further reinforces the claim that "A&P" is a Bildungsroman.

In "A&P", readers learn that Sammy's job at the Supermarket puts him at the bottom-end of the societal class ladder; it is obvious that it is a class that Sammy did not enjoy or is happy to stay at. Simply put, he did not feel that he belong there. The significance of "Queenie" is not only to bring out his immaturity and sexual tension that he has, she will be a symbol of the upper class where he will want to be.

Sammy wants to be among families where the "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 glass plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them" (Updike, 1961) and as he realizes that Queenie belongs to his desired background, Sammy mentioned that "she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy" (Updike, 1961) when she is being lectured by Lengel. Thus, with reference to the points made earlier, Sammy quits his job not only to be a "hero", but is an attempt to reject his own class with rules and dress codes set by the Supermarket, and to grow in terms of social class. Being on the same side as Queenie, he symbolically elevates his class to that of hers.

His "lust" towards Queenie is not just physical but also lusting to be "of her kind", a chance to grow in his personal desire in the higher class.

Further Analysis

On a bigger picture, "A&P" is about the younger generation versus the older generation. The resistance in conforming to the traditional values of the society and this resistance and taking of stand against conformity and traditional values shows the growth of the younger generation as a whole.

Sammy, the main character in the story with the three young girls, represent the younger generation, and Lengel, the manager and only character with authority of the Supermarket represents the conformists and the older generation. The fact that the three young girls walked into the Supermarket clad only in bathing suits already shows rebelling of traditional norms and significantly, the confrontation of the man of authority, Lengel, and Sammy making a decision shows the growth of the younger generation. Using allegory, the customers or locals are termed as "sheep".

Taking reference to an earlier quote, Sammy mentioned that "I bet you could set off dynamite in the A&P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists..." (Updike, 1961) Significantly, "the sheep pushing their carts down the aisle --the girls are walking against the usual traffic" (Updike, 1961) Sheep conforms, it is this conformity that Sammy tries to resist and once again supporting my earlier arguments, he wants to be in the league of the girls and "walk against it" This breakaway from societal norms is seen as growth as Sammy became conscious of his place and takes his stand.

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