Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Style is meaning in “A & P.” The story opens abruptly—“In walks these three girls”—and maintains that vernacular, conversational, ungrammatical voice throughout its 250 lines. The point of view is strictly Sammy’s and, although tense shifts occasionally from past to historical present (as it would in such a retelling), Sammy’s voice has an authenticity and immediacy that is matched in very few twentieth century stories. That voice can be both pedestrian (“I thought that was so cute”) and poetic (as when Sammy describes Queenie’s bare upper chest as “a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light”).
Sammy’s voice is also explicitly humorous. When he first sees the girls, he cannot remember whether he has rung up the box of HiHo crackers under his hand.I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell. She’s one of these cash-register watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I know it made her day to trip me up. She’s been watching cash registers for fifty years and probably never seen a mistake before.
When Lengel tells the girls, “this isn’t the beach,” it strikes Sammy as humorous, as if the thought had just occurred to Lengel, “and he had been thinking all these years the A & P was a great big dune and he was the head lifeguard.”
All the characters, in Sammy’s language, become animals: Lengel is about to “scuttle” crablike into his...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
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Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. John Updike: Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Boswell, Marshall. John Updike’s Rabbit Tetralogy: Mastered Irony in Motion. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000.
Greiner, Donald. John Updike’s Novels. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1984.
Luscher, Robert M. John Updike: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.
Miller, D. Quentin. John Updike and the Cold War: Drawing the Iron Curtain. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001.
(The entire section is 105 words.)