Setting Of A&P By John Updike

One of the most important aspects of any story is its setting. The setting provides readers with necessary background information, helps to establish the tone and atmosphere of the story, and can even influence the plot.

John Updike’s A&P is a perfect example of how setting can be used effectively in a story. Set in a small town grocery store, A&P tells the story of Sammy, a cashier who quits his job after he is reprimanded by his boss.

The setting plays an important role in establishing the tone of the story. The small town grocery store is dull and boring, and it’s clear that Sammy is not happy working there. The setting also helps to create a sense of familiarity for the reader; we can all imagine what it would be like to work in a small town grocery store.

The most important way that setting affects the story, however, is through its influence on the plot. Sammy’s decision to quit his job is a direct result of his encounter with the three girls in bathing suits. If they had not been in the store, he would not have been reprimanded by his boss and he would not have quit his job.

Updike uses setting masterfully in A&P, using it to establish tone, create familiarity, and influence the plot. It’s one of the many reasons why this story is so successful.

The store’s name, ‘A & P,’ is rather typical for a weekday grocery shop. The town is north of Boston and five miles from the beach. Because the shop is located in the heart of town, banks and churches can be seen from the entranceway.

On a Thursday, there isn’t much business. On the pavement, the sun may be seen shining. Sammy is nearly nineteen years old, and Stokesie is twenty-two and married. Lengel is gray and teaches Sunday school at The A & P Company in John Updike’s short story “A & P”. In “A & P,” the place where the action takes place serves as a means to display humor and realism.

The setting is very important in this story because it helps to create the atmosphere. The setting is used to show the difference between the young, unmarried employees and the older, married employees. The young employees are more carefree and relaxed, while the older employees are more strict and serious.

The setting also helps to create the humor in the story. For example, when Sammy is talking about how he is going to quit his job, he says, “I could feel my ass pucker up like a paper bag”; (Updike 917). This line is humorous because it is unexpected and it paints a picture in the reader’s mind.

The setting also helps to create a sense of realism in the story. For example, when the girls come into the store wearing nothing but their bathing suits, Sammy describes them as “real”; (Updike 918). This line is realistic because it shows that Sammy is attracted to the girls because they are real people, not just objects.

The setting also helps to create a sense of tension in the story. For example, when Lengel is talking to the girls about their clothing, he says, “I don’t want to have to call the police”; (Updike 919). This line creates tension because it suggests that there could be violence if the girls do not leave the store.

Updike employs the environment in order to produce humor. When three bikini-clad teenagers walk into the store, Sammy is ringing up an older woman’s groceries. Of course, Sammy momentarily loses his mind and rings up a box of HiHo crackers twice, to which the old woman happens upon the mistake (Updike 316).

‘She’s one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no brows, and I’m sure it made her day to trip me up,’ thinks Sammy of the old woman (Updike 316). Updike also includes amusing characterizations of all of the other customers at this point.

The setting is important in that it shows the characters’ interactions with each other and helps to set the tone of the story.

One such interaction is with the three girls who enter A&P. Sammy, being a young man, is obviously distracted by their appearance. Updike writes, “The three girls came in; they were all wearing bathing suits. The two heavier ones had on kind of a gray shingle, with straps over the shoulder, and the third one-the one I was looking at most-had on a real pretty greenish one that fit tight and showed everything” (Updike 316). This description sets the scene for what is to follow.

Sammy is not the only character who is affected by the setting. The other customers in the store are also described in a way that allows readers to understand their characters. For instance, Updike writes about the “witch” cashier as someone who enjoys seeing Sammy make a mistake. This interaction helps to show the different types of people who are in the store.

The setting is important because it allows readers to see into the characters’ lives. Updike does an excellent job of using the setting to his advantage, and makes readers laugh with his descriptions.

The girls arrive at the store in order to obtain a can of ‘Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream,’ which is what they want to eat; (Updike 319). The cash register’s noises provide a sense of realism because Updike sings the song: I go through the punches, 4,9, GROC, TOT- it’s more complicated than you think, and after you do it frequently enough, it begins to make a little song that you hear words to in my case ‘Hello (bing) there,’ etc. It was much simpler before we had all these buttons and things! Please stay with me on this journey to culinary nirvana.

Updike writes: -“The girls were all three lovely, in a common, vaguely hippyish way; long straight hair, bare legs and arms, sandals. They had that healthy outdoor look of so many American girls’ (319)

The use of setting in A&P is important because it allows the reader to feel as if they are actually in the store with the characters. The use of descriptive language allows the reader to visualize what is happening and this increases the overall effect of the story. Updike’s use of setting helps to create a sense of realism for the reader and this makes the story more impactful.

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