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John Updike's short story "A & P" demonstrates the importance of reading literature.
Sammy is the main character in this story. He is a youngster who works at the grocery store, and the story takes place during the summer.
Three girls come into the store in bathing suits. As they are checking out, the manager, representative of society and its rules, chastises the young women because they are inappropriately dressed. They may only enter the store in the proper attire.
Sammy stands up for the girls, even though they have already left. He does so based on the principle of the situation, and then he quits his job, even as his manager explains that he will probably be sorry later. Sammy acknowledges that this may be the case, but cannot stop himself. This often-anthologized story represents the coming of age of, in this case, a young man of conscience. Updike's story rings true to many individuals, of either gender, who can relate to a specific turning point in his or her life when childhood was left behind, innocence put away, and the journey to adulthood, begun.
Literature provides the reader with experiences they can relate to or learn from. The personal response of the reader to the text provides a wide variety of opportunities: to revisit a memory, to understand something about one's self, or to better understand the world at large.
Updike takes characters that may not be familiar to us, and conveys their stories, which may be familiar to us. Updike's appeal, and that of many successful writers, is that he connects to a common thread in the lives of people from every walk of life. In this, his story takes on a new dimension that provides a variety of responses to each person who reads the tale. By studying literature, we better understand ourselves.
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