The story A&P written by John Updike in July 22, 1962 is particularly interesting based on its subject matter and significance in that time frame. John Updike, best known for being a story writer has written many short stories, but the story that caught the readers attention was A&P.
The story commences with a group of girls in swim suits walking into the grocery store. A grocery clerk, better yet a young American teenager named Sammy whom is amazed by these trio of girls, but is more intrigued for the main girl “Queenie” in the group. He keeps gazing over these girls.
The girls leave and Sammy is upset because he felt as the manager embarrassed them, so he quits his job and goes after the girls, but the girls had got on their car and left. Sammy is then feeling unclear and ambivalent. The setting takes place in New England in a grocery store known as A&P. Without the historical context for the story, the translation of the details would have no significance and the story wouldn’t be what its needed and or desired to be.
To begin with, in this story A, Sammy’s description of the setting makes it sound dull. As stated in this quote “Im in the third check-out slot, with my back to the door” (Updike 163) with this piece of information the reader can visualize the story being in a grocery story. The setting takes place on a Thursday afternoon during the summer in a grocery store, in a small town in Massachusetts, New England,1961 during the post war period of American prosperity.Furthermore, are a few historical contexts of A&P. The first piece of historical context is conformity. Conformity is portrayed throughout the story as something normal. One example of conformity can be the customers. As Sammy calls them “Sheep” in this quote “sheep pushing their carts down the aisle” (Updike 164).
They go by the law and do the same activities as others or go by the same rules. “conformists as a group are more intolerant of ambiguity and tend to emphasize conventional” (Perceptions of Parents1). These “Sheep’s” are conformed with simplicity that have a mindset of “If they’re doing that, then I should do it also” and that’s not the way to live life.
As stated in the article “Conformity was common, as young and old alike followed group norms rather than striking out on their own” (American History). In the 1960s teenagers would conform and not go out of their way to be different, separate themselves from others, to be unique. Although unique is a little cliche to say. “The “people are sheep” model sets us up to think in terms of obedience or defiance, dumb conformity versus solitary self-assertion” (People Are Sheep 6). Teenagers or adults back in the sixties or in todays society would conform to society. No motivation or thoughts of being different, just do the same as everybody else.
In addition, the next historical context from A is feminism in the story. Feminism and its movement was an accidental thing John Updike created. Feminism was created in the event of Mr. Lengel embarrassing the group of girls for the way they were dressing.
“We want you decently dressed when you come in here” (Updike 166). “Queenie” is represented as a feminist throughout the story as she is being oppressed. Sammy being the typical ignorant guy is patronizing the female characters or being the oppressor. “such a rumpus by rambling the cage bars that society was at last obliged to pay attention” (Prisoners of Their Sex 1). The Feminist movement in the 1960s were being oppressed on the ideas of them having to be housewives, no equal pay, and the idea of wearing proper attire. “fought for the freedom to wear pantsuits or miniskirts at workplaces and at schools” (Clothes 156).
Feminists in the 1960s paved movement in the freedom of dress choice. As stated in this quote “the mini-skirt, were brought about as the youth tended to rebel against what they thought was wrong” (Swinging Sixties 3). Woman fought for their freedom and to wear their own choice of clothing whether they are at work or school. Feminism is was a historical context portrayed in the story.Moreover, is the counterculture movement historical context in A. Counterculture in the story is depicted as a usual thing to do. An example of counterculture throughout the story is when the group of girls wore their bathing suits and walked into the grocery store. “In walk these three girls in nothing but bathing suits” (Updike 163).
These girls went out their way to not conform to society. They didn’t care about others opinions as they were being different. In the 1960s counterculture was drastically different that people would change their lifestyle such as what music they hear or clothes. “separated themselves from mainstream culture through their appearance and lifestyle” (The Counterculture 1). Young people would have different attitudes towards counterculture. Adults begun to separate themselves from mainstream culture ways.
“It soon became evident that state tolerance of the youth counterculture was extremely limited” (Im Set Free 2). The state of the youth counterculture was starting to become limited, but it didn’t change as you can see in todays society teenagers are still dressing differently then how society wants them to dress.Equally important, is the function of the setting. The function of the setting works because it has the female characters be oppressed due to ignorant male characters, have conformity, and counterculture. With these being in the story it helps convey the information to the reader. The reader can visualize the setting well and the historical context within the story. The time frame lets us know the events that happened back then.
Also the story’s setting shapes the mood and tone. It helps give a sense of reality and the state that the characters are in. For example with the setting it helps bring the story to real life, real life situations that occurred a lot back then and in todays society.In addition to the settings function, the setting won’t work if it is changed. Why? because for example if the story were to have the characters flipped, it wouldn’t have feminism nor counterculture due to the fact that men weren’t being oppressed in the 60’s. Men or teenagers weren’t wearing bathing suits either. It would’ve been strange if the roles were to be reversed.
It would seem baffling. The setting relies on the characters because if were to have a different time, location, and place it wouldn’t have the same historical context it has. Changing the location and date time would change the whole story and its historical context. If you were to have the story set in winter while it was snowing it would be odd because I don’t think the author would have the female characters in bathing suits. It would seem too crazy and unreal.Additionally, is the settings interaction with the elements of fiction. The settings interacts with symbolism as Sammy refers to shoppers as “Sheep” and this can mean that they are followers and conform to society.
The settings also interacts with point of view, it interacts with point of view by having just one main person which is Sammy narrating the story in First Person and not told by Mr. Lengel. It would have different events in the story or parts missing out such as not being inside Sammy’s thoughts or even having Sammy as a character. Why? because he wouldn’t be the narrator and he would just be a side character like Stokesie.
Conflict is also being interact with because with the girls being embarrassed it leads to Sammy quitting his job. Without that conflict Sammy wouldn’t of have quit because he wouldn’t of seemed heroic to the girls if he quit his job for nothing. John Updike sets the sets the story during the Post-war Era and Counterculture movement due to the fact that he wants to convey the messages of the story which where the counterculture movement, feminism, and conformity. The setting contributes to the story’s meaning by giving the reader a visual and perspective of the story.
If the reader can visualize the time of era of the story, they can find the story being credible and continue to read. The atmosphere also helps convey the story’s meaning.In addition to the understanding of the historical context, A&P provides helpful historical contexts that gives an insight to the story so one can visualize it more. The author also offers interesting historical context such as rebellion.
Without the historical context for the story, the translation of the details would have no significance and the story wouldn’t be what its needed and or desired to be.