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Analysis the story A&P by John Updike Essay


Sammy is the main character of the story A&P by John Updike. He is 19 years old and he is working in a store as a cashier. From what Sammy says, does and thinks it is clear that he has a sense of humor and brave teenager. The writer uses a lot of colloquial language, low diction and concrete words in the plot and this use of the informal language, as well as phrasing assist in bringing out and explaining the personality and character of Sammy.

His class as a lower end worker is revealed through the kind of job he is doing as a cashier and also his worries that his own family uses lemonade glass toss in order to celebrate big family events. The way Sammy describes the girl who makes him quite his job also shows that he came from the low end background. The use of the informal language and colloquialisms shows that Sammy is not very educated because informal grammar is associated with lower social classes.

In this story, colloquial/ informal tone is used to enable the readers to connect well with Sammy and to understand his intentions and believes. His expressions are very important as they create an image of the young man and create a scene making the story interesting to the reader. The comical tone also attracts many readers, especially the young generation and portrays that Sammy, and not the writer, is the one who talks to the reader directly. He comically expresses things and ideas as he sees them and in a very friendly tone.

In this story, Sammy has used a lot of colloquial language; for instance, in the first sentence the writer states that the girls were in nothing; in a formal language the narrator meant that the girls were not decently dressed, especially in such a place. The store manager also complains on how the girls were dressed.

Still in the first paragraph, the writer talks of a “chunky kid with a good tan and a broad soft- looking can’’ (Updike 356) when referring to the third girl. In a formal language, the writer means short and thick lady. Another example of the informal language where we can observe connotations is when the protagonist serves his clients and “smoothes feathers” to a girl which means that he tries to calm her down.

The girl had given the narrator a “hell of time” formally meaning she was very angry and was just about to cause turmoil. The use of such connotations in this story is common and is used by the writer to portray the personality of Sammy as the main character, as well as describe personalities of other minor characters.

The narrator refers to one of the girls as a “queen” (Updike 357) meaning that she was very beautiful and the narrator liked her appearance as he even describes how she walked. On this page, the narrator states that what “got him” was that straps were down referring to what surprised him in the formal language (Updike 357).

From the story, it seems that Sammy had fallen in love with the queen and he states that “she had oaky hair that the sun and salt had bleached done up in a bun that was unraveling and a kind of a prime face’’ (Updike 358), this is used to emphasize on the beauty of the girl, “but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed” (Updike 358) the narrator meant that they went back into what they were doing.

On page 358, the narrator also states that he felt “faint”, which means that he felt weak, he also sates that Stokisie thinks that he is going to be a manager in some “sunny day:, meaning that Stokisie thinks that he is going to be a manager sometimes in future. This also shows how Sammy, the main character, thinks of others. He thinks that Stokisie is a “responsible man finding his voice” (Updike 358) which is also a colloquial language.

On the same page Sammy has also talked about women with “six children and varicose veins mapping their legs and nobody, including them could care” (Updike 358) meaning that these women are not very attractive or good looking even if they dressed well.

On the last page, the use of the colloquial language is well portrayed when the narrator talks of “and my stomach kind of fell of as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (Updike 360). The narrator also talks of “two smoothest scoops of vanilla” and also refers to himself as “unsuspected hero”; this does not only portrays him as a hero but also contains informal language.

The use of informal language and collocations is a powerful tool which helps the author to show the character of the narrator. The language he uses is characteristic of his social class and environment in which he grew up. Moreover, certain expressions show personal features of Sammy and his attitude to his work and other people he works and communicates with.

Works Cited

Updike, John. “Lecture A&P” in A World of Writing Stories, Poems, Plays and Essays (2nd Ed). David L. Pike and Ana M. Acosta. New York: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Analysis the story A&P by John Updike." January 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/analysis-the-story-ap-by-john-updike/.


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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Analysis the story A&P by John Updike'. 30 January.

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