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Comparison: “A&P” by John Updike and “Greasy Lake” by T.C Boyle Essay


Actions and the consequences of these actions often play great role in human understanding of the surrounding reality. Some of the consequences may be reconsidered, others remain unchanged and those which are unchanged or have the great impact on a personality are able to impact people and their vision of the surrounding world.

Reading the short stories A&P by John Updike and Greasy Lake by T.C Boyle it becomes obvious that the protagonists, being the teenagers, want to live as they consider correct, still, it is also possible to state that when they get in some particular situations, when they are presented with some specific events, they understand that there is something more necessary and useful than their personal ambitions and desires.

The short stories under consideration are aimed at showing that teenagers are usually impulsive people who behave according to the principle of contradiction and refusal from the usual leading of life, however, the situations when the affairs go contrary to what they are expecting change their vision of the surrounding world and they grow up, unexpectedly.

The stories under consideration, A&P by John Updike and Greasy Lake by T.C Boyle, are devoted to absolutely different situations which are not connected to each other, still, these two stories have something in common. The protagonists are people who have similar features and who want achieve something by means of their actions. Reading the stories, it seems from the first glance that the main similar feature of the protagonists is their age, still, the closer look at the stories shows that the situations these people appear at and the considerations they take up from those events are also similar.

A&P by John Updike is a short story where Sammy, a nineteen-year-old boy, who works the checkout line at an A&P is a narrator. The author tells nothing about this personality, therefore, when the girls enter the shop the reader is unable to understand whose actions are going to be considered the primary ones. Therefore, when it becomes obvious that Sammy is the protagonist, the reader is trying to check whether the author wanted to deliver his own point of view to the reader via the protagonist or not.

Some of the phrases seem to be the messages from the author, while others are believed to be personal ideas of the main character. For example, the description of the girls “You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?)” (Kennedy and Gioia 17) is the idea of the protagonist as it is referred to the particular situation while the phrase “But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it” (Kennedy and Gioia 17) is the one which belongs to the author who wants to carry this particular message to the audience to give the reader the understanding of the reasons of many similar teenagers and to make sure that this position is mistaken.

Greasy Lake by T.C Boyle dwells upon another situation when the protagonist is seen from the first sight and the ideas he expresses are the ideas of a person who at his nineteen wants to seem a bad guy who does want to seem and behave in such a way.

The protagonist is trying to explain his character and the characters of his friends by means of the following phrase, “We were bad. We read Andre Gide and struck elaborate poses to show that we didn’t give a shit about anything” (Kennedy and Gioia 127). The situation seems rather unrealistic and imaginative. Moreover, all the actions youths are doing show their desire to impress others with their cruelty, but at the same time their actions do not show any inner desire to perform badly.

Having considered the situations at which these two protagonists have appeared, it is possible to state that the conditions are different, however, thy reasons for change, the reasons for growing up are similar. These two men appear before the choice and their future lives depend on the choice. The protagonist in the story A&P by John Updike is sure that the girls are going to appraise his intention to quit the job only because the manager wanted to offend those.

Additionally, the protagonist is sure that having chosen the point of view, one is to follow it up to the end. However, having made a choice and having completed the desire, the protagonist finds out that his action is useless. He wanted to show the girls that he acts to support them, but they never know it as their attention is paid to other things, more interesting for them.

Only having made a choice the protagonist understands that he has acted wrong as the thought about the future are occupying him. Thus, he has grown up. He thinks about his action, the present situation and the future.

The protagonist of another story becomes adult as well. Still, the situation is different. In case with the main character from the Greasy Lake by T.C Boyle, the protagonist understands that the life is more than dirty actions which are aimed at conducting something evil. What were the reasons for those actions?

The teenagers wanted to be “better” as they believed, they wanted to act wiser and more creative. However, only after having found the dead body at the end of the story the protagonists understand the real values of life. Being asked whether he wants to have a good time with a girl and her friends, the protagonists says that the only thing he wants is to go home, to his safety and loving home. The protagonist has grown up and his ideas have changed.

Therefore, it may be concluded that the protagonists of the stories A&P by John Updike and Greasy Lake by T.C Boyle are shown as the dynamic ones as at the end of the discussion they are changing. The situations they occurred at, the things they have seen make it impossible for them to return to the previous style of life. Something has changed and this ‘something’ has made the protagonists to look at the situation from another angle.

Both boys are presented in the period of growing up, still, their points of view do not differ from the children’s as only in this case people think so emphatically without trying to be more realistic and reasonable. The main characters managed to get rid of that childhood and categorical vision of the world only when they appeared in stressful situations. Otherwise, they would continue seeing the world from the wrong, understood only for their perspective.

Works Cited

Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia. An Introduction to Fiction. London: Pearson Education Canada, 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, April 24). Comparison: "A&P" by John Updike and "Greasy Lake" by T.C Boyle. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-ap-by-john-updike-and-greasy-lake-by-tc-boyle/

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"Comparison: "A&P" by John Updike and "Greasy Lake" by T.C Boyle." IvyPanda, 24 Apr. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-ap-by-john-updike-and-greasy-lake-by-tc-boyle/.

1. IvyPanda. "Comparison: "A&P" by John Updike and "Greasy Lake" by T.C Boyle." April 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-ap-by-john-updike-and-greasy-lake-by-tc-boyle/.


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IvyPanda. "Comparison: "A&P" by John Updike and "Greasy Lake" by T.C Boyle." April 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-ap-by-john-updike-and-greasy-lake-by-tc-boyle/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Comparison: "A&P" by John Updike and "Greasy Lake" by T.C Boyle." April 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/comparison-ap-by-john-updike-and-greasy-lake-by-tc-boyle/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Comparison: "A&P" by John Updike and "Greasy Lake" by T.C Boyle'. 24 April.

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