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Describe the protagonists' relationships to authority in "A & P" by John Updike and...

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wolverine123 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted September 29, 2011 at 6:38 AM via web

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Describe the protagonists' relationships to authority in "A & P" by John Updike and "Fiesta 1980" by Junot Diaz.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 19, 2013 at 5:32 PM (Answer #1)

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 The male protagonists in “A & P” by John Updike and “Fiesta  1980” by Junot Diaz face problems with  authority in their stories.  Both of the young men struggle to decide what is the right thing to do in their tenuous situations.

Sammy works as a grocery clerk n “A & P.” He is a typical young man for the 1960s.  Caught in a time that still requires stringent dress codes and expectations of behavior, Sammy appears to follow all of the requirements.

Sammy has an attitude.  Apparently from lower middle class home, Sammy appears to be intelligent, clever, and witty.  He has a comment about every shopper.  Yet, he is also disrespectful and smart aleck with his comments and extremely judgmental of the customers.

When Queenie and her friends come into the grocery store, Sammy follows her activities throughout her shopping for her mother. Sammy’s sexuality comes flaming through when he looks at the girls as sex objects and refers to their bodies and breasts.

His protest to his boss over the treatment of the girls had two purposes.  Sammy wanted to defend these “helpless” girls against the authority figure.  In addition, he desired the attention from Queenie that might have gotten him a date or at least recognition from her.  Both of his intentions failed.  He quit and then had no means to support himself. The girls were gone by the time he stood for them.  Sammy’s attempt at heroism failed miserably.

In “Fiesta 1980,” Yunior narrates his story about his relationship with his father and his reaction to the stress. Yunior tells his story about his immigrant  Domican Republic family  who has moved to New York City and are struggling to make it.  He is portrayed as a strong yet almost child-like boy.

Papi, the father of the family, is cold and bitter and takes his problems out on his family particularly Yunior.  When his father takes him with him to his mistress’s house, Yunior is completely dismayed. 

Initially, the father tries to understand what is going on with his son.  He cleans up Yunior’s vomit the first time he does it.   He also sees his father show signs of loving his mother.  However, every time he rides in the van with his father, Yunior vomits.  Yunior realizes that it is only in his father’s van that he gets sick. 

The meeting with the mistress traumatized Yunior.

The two of them went upstairs and I was too scared of what was happening to poke around.  I just sat there, ashamed, expecting something big and fiery to crash down on our heads.  I watched a whole hour of news before Papi came downstairs and said, Let’s go.

When he vomits, it is a means to cathartically reject the experience.  He tries to purge his emotions which hopefully will help him to heal.

A climatic moment occurs at the party at his aunt’s house.  The father tries to keep Yunior from eating for fear that he will vomit again. His aunt sneaks him some bread and again he vomits in the van.

The story demonstrates a boy who is starved by his father for food and for his sympathy.  The mother cannot stand up to the father without suffering her consequences.  To illustrate his disdain for his father, Yunior writes an essay called “My Father the Torturer.” In spite of this, Yunior admits that he loves his father which did not seem strange until his father was dead years later. 
 

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