Having trouble with a thesis statement for comparing and contrasting Sammy in A & P to Edie in "How I Met My Husband." I have the comparison between Sammy and Edie in regards to there...

Having trouble with a thesis statement for comparing and contrasting Sammy in A & P to Edie in "How I Met My Husband." 

I have the comparison between Sammy and Edie in regards to there negative opinions of characters and their infatuation with someone out of reach (social class and age).  The contrast would be their level of maturity and the settings of the stories.   Have I missed something of importance?

Asked on by bsgleason

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Both stories are "rite of passage" stories: one is about a boy (Sammy) and the other is about a girl named Edie.  "Rite of passage" refers to the passing from an age of innocence, naiveté, and simplicity, when the world is as it appears--nothing hidden and no need to confront the seriousness of the world, to that moment (perhaps not even remembered) when we all leave "childhood" (including adolescence) behind.

A rite of passage can present itself in a variety of ways: significantly a bar mitzvah or turning sixteen. Sometimes it's a cultural, physical or mental transition, and with some young people, it happens much earlier than one would wish with, as an example, a death in the family or something that forces one to "grow up."

However, in both stories, our protagonists see the world simplistically, with a beauty that comes with youth.  Updike's A&P is an exquisitely  written story that allows us to remember, with amazing clarity, how simple and wonderful life was when we would see an amazing girl (or guy) and see nothing but the beauty.  There is nothing sexual here, just an appreciation for a truly wonderful work of nature, like a work of art.

Though Edie's story (in "How I Met My Husband") is not so carefully presented--with the same details or deeply observed appreciation of Chris (see Updike's imagery in A&P), the pilot--still the story circles around how she feels about him and about life, in general.  There is still an easy innocence on Edie's part, as when she plays "dress up" with Mrs. Peebles' evening gown and make-up, how Edie responds to Chris' advances, and how she waits each day for a promised letter that never comes.  Edie is innocent, naive, and even a little rebellious.  She lets Chris kiss her, and it is only his self-restraint that keeps it from going beyond a simple kiss; it's not that Edie seems to know what is beyond--it's just that kiss.  And when Chris' fiancee becomes accusatory towards Edie when Chris slips off, Edie becomes rebellious, admitting to something far more serious than a kiss to antagonize Alice, when in fact (once again) she doesn't convey that she knows what comes after the kiss.

In writing your thesis statement, I would present the idea that these are both "rite of passage" stories.  That they capture the innocence of life before we learn to know the world, with its complications, difficulties, and even pain.  And somewhere in the essay, be sure to note the significant moment when the passage is complete: Edie realizes there is no letter coming, and Sammy quits his job even knowing that things will never be the same.


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