John Updike uses many literary devices in the short story "A&P." First, Updike uses diction to develop the character of Sammy. The story is told from his point of view, and Updike draws us into the story with Sammy's use of diction and colloquialisms. Diction is a style of writing...
John Updike uses many literary devices in the short story "A&P." First, Updike uses diction to develop the character of Sammy. The story is told from his point of view, and Updike draws us into the story with Sammy's use of diction and colloquialisms. Diction is a style of writing determined by the words an author uses. Colloquialisms are defined as the use of informal words or slang. Here is an example:
Now here comes the sad part of the story, at least my family says it's sad but I don't think it's sad myself. The store's pretty empty, it being Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again. The whole store was like a pinball machine and I didn't know which tunnel they'd come out of. After a while they come around out of the far aisle, around the light bulbs, records at discount of the Caribbean Six or Tony Martin Sings or some such gunk you wonder they waste the wax on, sixpacks of candy bars, and plastic toys done up in cellophane that faIl apart when a kid looks at them anyway.
Notice the words "gunk" and "wax," which are a reference to vinyl records, and the conversational tone taken by the narrator. Wax and gunk are colloquialisms. The effect created on the reader is to transport us back to the 1950s as we see the world through Sammy's eyes.
Updike also makes frequent use of simile, metaphor, and alliteration in this story. Sammy compares a customer in the grocery store to a witch, continuing the metaphor with the sentiment that she would have been burned in Salem. Sammy compares the leader of the three girls to a queen without using "like" or "as"—another metaphor. Another metaphor Sammy uses is to compare the customers at the grocery store to sheep.
In several places throughout this story, Updike makes use of alliteration—two or more words that begin with the same consonant sound. One of the longest examples of alliteration is this: "He didn't like my smiling—as I say he doesn't miss much—but he concentrates on giving the girls that sad Sunday school superintendent stare." Notice the repetition of the "s" sound.
The following quote is an example of imagery, metaphor, and idiom:
All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room. Her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them. When my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it's a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoons stencilled on.
Notice the sight imagery in the "ice cream coats" and "drinks the color of water." The metaphor is the comparison of the "queen's" voice to a slide. It is an idiom because it has to be taken figuratively. One could not extract meaning from the literal definition of the words themselves in the sentence "All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room."
There are quite a few similes in the story. Here is one example: "A couple customers that had been heading for my slot begin to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute."