"A & P"

by John Updike 
  • After you finish the story, please read the questions at the end of the story in our textbook.
  • For next Thurs. please glimpse through  the section before the story on point of view, esp. "Participant (or First-Person) Points of View.

  • Focuses
    • self (teenager) and society
    • characterization
    • point of view

copy right (c) Archive photo, from 
  Questions for Group Discussion and Journal

1. From the language and descriptions in the first two paragraphs, can you imagine the kind of person our narrator is?  And how he looks at his job?  Why, for instance, does he see one woman as a "witch" and the others as "sheep"?  And the store as a "pinball machine"?
2. What does the narrator think about his "Queen"?
3. What do you think about his decision to quit?  Why and will you do that?  Do you think him comic or heroic?  Does he grow in this story?

Point of view:
1. Do you read through this very subjective narrative, do you agree with the narrator?  About his judgment of the witch, the sheep and the Queen?   In other words, do you find him "a reliable narrator"?

Self & Society:
1. How do the Queen and the other girls behave before and when Lengel appears?
2. Is there anything wrong in wearing bikini to a supermarket in the center of a town?

References and further Questions:
Updike said about stories: "I want stories to startle and engage me within the first few sentences and in their middle to widen or deepen or sharpen my knowledge of human activity, and to end by giving me a sense of completed statement."
Does "A & P" do that?

The following are two (probably non-professional) readers' reviews of Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, where "A & P" is from.  Do you agree with them?

DonaldDuck7@juno.com, 02/28/97, rating=10:
This book was good!
The reason the book was good, is that it allowed me to step outside myself to see myself. It was very revealing in a way that it
showed how life is really ironic in a weird sort of way! It also revealed that sometimes you have to go against the grain so that
you can really live life. I really liked this story and I would recommend it to anyone who is open to new ideas.

cm5hdpjw@bs47a.staffs.ac.uk, 01/09/97, rating=10:
The American short story at it's best.
A collection of short stories by one of Americas finest writers which is most notable for 'A&P', a classic even though it
concerns a simple incident in a lowly checkout operators' life. It is a thrilling and delightful read : in a 1950's store, a cynical assistant drearily watches the comings and goings of the shoppers, only to suddenly risk his livelihood for the sake of the pretty girl who one day ruins his regular routine. A brilliant study of the conflicts of desire and choice, and their effect on personality.
Is this your image of the narrator?