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Both male protagonists in “A & P” by John Updike and “Fiesta 1980” by Junot Diaz have difficulties. Sammy, a grocery clerk, and Yunior, a young immigrant, feel strong emotions toward their respective authority figures.
Sammy makes a “spur of the moment” decision that has a negative impact on his future. As a young man in the 1960s, Sammy seems to be intelligent but often disrespectful in his commentary about the people around him.
When three girls come into the grocery story, Sammy watches them as they look for what they want to buy. The girls are dressed in bathing suits. When they come to the cashier to pay for the item, the story manager observes them. Lengel, the manager, pulls the girls aside; in front of the other customers, he reprimands them for dressing inappropriately.
Lengel has been a friend of the family. Sammy associate “Sunday School” with the manager. When Sammy quits, he really does not give any explanation for his actions. The manager definitely does not understand why Sammy quits. Both of them become angry, but neither understands the other’s position.
Sammy’s initial response was definitely a strong distate for the humiliation that the girls suffer. The girls leave the store. To show that he rejects the mistreatment of the girls, Sammy quits in protest over their needless humiliation. In part, he acts from mostly pure motives to support the girls; however, he does want to impress the girls. Unfortunately, the girls are gone before he performs his semi-heroic act of quitting his job. This action will make his future difficult because he needs the job.
A typical young man of the times---Sammy has flaws. The last sentence of the story indicates that he does act against authority for the right reasons:
His [Lengel] face was dark gray and his back was stiff, as if he’d just had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me from here on in.
Sammy knows that he probably has made a mistake; however, he still would protest the manager’s handling of the situation.
Yunior in “Fiesta 1980” has a physical problem. Since he went to the house of his father’s mistress, every time he gets in the family van he vomits. The young boy loves, hates, and fears his father.
The first time Yunior threw up in the van his father actually cleaned up the mess. It was well-known that he never cleaned up anything. From this, Yunior assumes that his father does love him. Now, his father fusses all the time about Yunior eating before he gets in the van. Regardless, every time he is in the van, he vomits.
When the family goes to his aunt’s party, Yunior eats before the trip. His father becomes angry at the mother for giving him food. At the party, his father tells him that he cannot eat any of the delicious food. Later, the aunt gives him some of the food. On the way home, Yunior vomits.
This recurring event indicates that he connects the van to his devastating knowledge that his father is risking his family to be with this woman. The father takes his sons with him several times even to eat meals with her. Through these meals, Yunior thinks about is mother. He thinks about telling his mother about the mistress, but he cannot bring himself to hurt his mother. As the family returns from the fiesta, Yunior sees his father put his hand on his mother’s leg. This does not stop the inevitable vomiting.
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