What would be a possible thesis for the short story "A & P" by John Updike?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thesis writing can be hard. The first thing to remember about any good thesis is that it makes an argument. It is not a statement of fact. There is nothing to prove. Saying that Sammy quits his job is not a thesis statement, so regardless of what thesis you come up with, be sure that it makes an argument that you intend to prove with evidence from the story. 

The second thing to remember about thesis statement writing is that it is okay to be formulaic when writing the thesis. A solid thesis writing style is the "point and counter-point" format. This kind of thesis statement begins by admitting to an argument that you intend to disprove. The second half of the statement is then what your main argument is. Generally, this thesis format begins with a dependent clause, and it is then followed up by the independent clause containing your main argument.  

The previous post contains some great thesis suggestions.  A couple of them open up the possibility to connect this story to societal concerns or types of government. That is fine, but it's also okay to keep a thesis statement and paper entirely focused on the piece of literature. Regarding "A & P," I've always liked challenging my students to examine Sammy's "heroism."  

The girls, and who'd blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say "I quit" to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they'll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero.

I like asking students about whether or not Sammy and/or his act is heroic. Your thesis statement could be a statement that seeks to prove (or disprove) Sammy as a hero. For example: "Although Sammy is quite certain that his actions will make him Queenie's conquering hero, his actions are neither heroic nor do they prove beneficial to any character in the story."  

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many possible angles to take in writing about John Updike's story "A & P." It all just depends on your opinion of the story and whether any particular aspect of it stands out in your assessment as being worthy of note. A couple of ideas that one might explore in a thesis have to do with Sammy's reaction to the girls; Sammy's moral predicament; Sammy's choices in his moral predicament; the theme of individuality; or Updike's authorial style choices.

One could take a position in relation to Sammy's reaction to the girls' attire as being representative of Marxist literary theory with Sammy standing for the exploiting capitalist class and the girls standing for the exploited worker class. One could discuss Sammy's moral predicament while listening to the manager scold the girls in terms of a rigid archaic Victorian social moral code that not only constrains but also ostracizes. One could discuss Sammy's choice to quit his job in terms of the irrationality and shortsightedness of youth that acts as self-sabotage and causes endless difficulties.

One could discuss the self-imposed constraints of an individuality that doesn't leave room for social realities, or, on the other hand, that would enlighten society if a demonstration of individuality could initiate a successful rebellion against status quo. One could discuss Updike's choices in vocabulary, discussing his use of adjectives and adverbs or his choice of prepositional relationship words.