A&P Questions and Answers
by John Updike

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In "A & P" by John Updike, why would the setting matter to or affect Sammy's actions?

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The story is really about young men’s fascination with young girls. Updike was an art student before he became a writer. His visual sensitivity is apparent in his stories. "A & P" is a picture of a supermarket in a small resort town. He brings the three girls into the store to create drama. It is definitely “small-town” drama. The drama is only there to intrigue the reader—but the real purpose of the story is to paint a picture. Without the three girls the piece would be just a sketch. It would be hard to interest a reader in a simple description of the inside of a small-town supermarket in the middle of an uneventful summer day. The girls also give a visual focus to the work because Sammy's eyes follow them around the store, up and down the aisles with which he is so familiar. The title of the story suggests that this is not so much about the people as it is about a typical American supermarket.

Updike's story is especially valuable in that it demonstrates a truth about...

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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mkcapen1 | Student

In John Updike's short story "A&P" the boy works in an A&P store.  The setting is a grocery store in the 1950's.  It is in a small town and the boy works a mundane job as a cashier.  He sees the same thing day after day.  The same isles.  The same colors. the same keys on the cash register.  However, for the boy the store seems almost devoid of color.

The girls come in totally different than the expected norm.  They are cheerful and vibrant.  They are the opposite of the store and shift the mood of the boy.  The setting is important because the boy is able to see that the girls mean excitement and something better than the store where everything always seems to be the same.