Analysis of Characters in A&P by John Updike

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About this sample


Words: 646 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Dec 3, 2020

Words: 646|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Dec 3, 2020

A & P by John Updike, was written in 1961. Updike is known for his real fictional, but situational stories about middle-class lifestyle. In this time period, having a job already gave you an opportunity to climb up when working for a growing company like A & P. Jobs in the 1960’s time period were in need of workers and the workforce was only getting bigger, men and women were need for all sorts of things. Though many still had to work multiple jobs to keep a steady income just to live off of, so losing a job was not beneficial. Women getting jobs was now getting much easier and growing at a fast rate, changing their social status. Updike clearly uses the time period to divide each character into different social classes.

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The author illustrates Sammy, the narrator, as a working class young man. In the 1960s, men had to work a nine to five job everyday to support their families. Keeping a job in this time period was essential because most families lived off of one salary. When Sammy quits, Lengel, the store manager, says “You’ll regret this for the rest of your life”. By quitting, Sammy’s social status changes completely and needs to find a new job. Sammy is already in a lower class, because of his position at the company and him still living at home, and by quitting his job it can hurt him ever getting another job and moving up in the company.

The store manager, Lengel, is considered to be a in a higher social class than Sammy, but still with just being in the middle social class. Lengel has a higher position in the company and makes a steady income so it only makes sense for him to be above Sammy, status wise. As a store manager Lengel has more responsibility than Sammy does and has to make sure that everything is alright within the store. He can not have girls wearing only bikinis in his store, it would make the store look bad. Updike makes Lengel seem like the villain by doing his job and kicking the girls out. By doing his job he unintentionally changes Sammy’s status by making him, unintentionally, quit. Updike also makes Sammy seem like he is trying to stand, to Lengel, up against social discrimination.

Another character Updike uses to represent social classes is Queenie. That is not her real name it is just a name given by the narrator, because she looks rich. In fact Sammy tries to interact with Queenie, but does not because she is considered above him, social status wise. Her nickname alone gives an idea of her status. Also, the confidence Queenie has when walking into the store with only a bikini on, this screams upper class. Sammy also compares other women in the store to Queenie by even calling some “houseslaves”. In this time period, it was not common for women to go around stores in only bikinis like it is today. Updike uses Queenie in this story to also show how social classes are have changed and is still changing.

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John Updike brilliantly uses social status to represent this period of time. Updike’s work is known for using real life situations in his fictional stories and it shows in A & P. He separated the lower class from the upper class without any trouble. Sammy clearly being the lower class just starting getting into the workforce and making money. Unlike Sammy, Lengel has already been in the workforce being a middle aged man and an average guy, making a living like a normal middle class person. Queenie maybe the same age as Sammy, but she probably was born into a rich family, even though the story does not get into too much detail, and thus automatically having a higher social status than Sammy and Lengel.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis of Characters in A&p by John Updike. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
“Analysis of Characters in A&p by John Updike.” GradesFixer, 10 Dec. 2020,
Analysis of Characters in A&p by John Updike. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Feb. 2024].
Analysis of Characters in A&p by John Updike [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Dec 10 [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from:
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