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The Coming of Age Theme in A&P by John Updike, The Blue Chevrolet by Russell Banks, and The Return by H. Beam Piper

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The purpose of this essay is to analyze the short stories that we have been reading over the last couple of weeks; “The Return”, “A&P”, and “The Blue Chevrolet”. The coming of age theme throughout the short stories will be the main focus of this essay. This term refers to a young person who must go through difficult, life-altering experiences in order to reach a greater level of maturity. One of the male literary characters from each story will be highlighted in order to explain how they come of age during the story, and how that may reflect on the matter of growing up. Another intent of this essay is to speak about the importance of women in each story, and how the role that they played affected the plot of the story. The significance of the boys’ ages and the time period in which each short story was set will also be a topic through the essay. This is done with the hope to further expound upon the details of each of the stories. Examples and evidence from the stories will be used in order to backup the findings/main points that are stated in this essay. This will give you a better understanding of the text that is being analyzed.

At the beginning of the “A&P”, the narrator Sammy is an ordinary 19 year old who inhabits an in-between space between adulthood and adolescence. Sammy’s change to adulthood is seen in his questioning of conformity. From early on in the story Sammy makes it clear to the readers that he is unlike the other employees at the grocery store. He describes Stokesie, a co-worker who is only three years and is already married with two kids, he goes on to add that Stokesie hopes to become a manager one day. We then hear about Lengel, who he describes as hiding in the office all day. Neither men appear happy to Sammy. However, it was by watching the reactions to the girls, that he really begins to change. To Sammy the girls are an example of nonconformity. From the second they enter the store, they are working against the norms of that society. Their insistence that they are decent becomes a message to Sammy. While Lengel argues that they are not decent, that bathing suits are not appropriate attire for grocery stores, Sammy begins to realize that being different, even rebellious, is really okay. Class is a big issue in ‘A&P.’ Sammy divides up the various people he comes into contact with into stereotypical groups. From the beginning of the story he talks about the ‘sheep’ or followers in his town. To him, everybody dresses, acts, talks, and thinks alike. When he sees the girls, especially Queenie, he sees that there are people who are able to break out of what is expected. By quitting his job, Sammy shows that he is gaining power to do the same. His innocence and immaturity got the best of him. When Sammy left the supermarket he instantly realizes what just happened. Sammy comes to the realization that he has to grow up now. And that being an adult is hard work. He is no longer working for friend of the family. That he is not a child anymore, ‘My white shirt that my mother ironed the night before.’ In the end, the class difference between Sammy and the girls means that his rebellion has far more serious ramifications than theirs does. By the end of the story, Sammy feels ‘how hard the world is going to be’ because not becoming a ‘sheep’ won’t be as easy as just walking away.

In “The Blue Chevrolet” the main character Chevy loses his innocence during an altercation with Tommy, the owner of a Chevrolet who denies him a ride in the car due to his racial background. The events following this situation shows how Chevy has to grow up and come to the realization that things are not as they may seem. “I thought the fact that we’ve been together since kids would count for something. I always believed you’d stand by me if, and when, it happened. Obviously, I got it wrong.” Chevy in this line expresses how he feels about his best friend not standing up for him during the altercation. The short story starts off with a few details about Chevy and his relationship with his best friend, whose name is not stated in the story. The narrator talks about growing up with Chevy, and how they both came to find an interest in cars. By reading the story it can be seen that the two boys have a very close relationship. Chevy is however able to see that being friends with someone for a long time doesn’t mean that they are going to stand by your side in a difficult situation. It was the moment that he stood by the road with Samantha while his friend drove away with Tommy, that Chevy had to grow up. He saw what the world was really like, and that it was no longer time to worry about cars. Rather he now had to worry about being racially discriminated upon. By the end of the story Chevy was fully able to understand the significance of the events that took place earlier on in the day. The narrator however didn’t understand what he really did wrong. Their conversation in Chevy’s room uncovers how immature the narrator still was, even after the event that took place. Although both boys were old enough to understand only Samantha, who Chevy thought understood because she is a woman who also has to face discrimination due to her gender, and he himself were able to properly respond. However the narrator though that it would solve the problem by scratching Tommy’s car.

“The Return” took place in a much more modern time period compared to “A&P” and “The Blue Chevrolet”. The main character Alex is also much younger than all the characters that were analyzed. Whereas the other boys are better able to easily understand what was going on around them, Alex was oblivious. One reason for this is the fact that Alex comes from a much higher social class, so he is not exposed to the problems of the real world. Alex’s visit to his father’s hometown introduced him to a different side of society. It is during this trip that Alex comes of age. “I think it a very fine idea and ask my father to buy me pop.” It is in this part of the story that we first recognize how innocent Alex is, when he mistakes alcohol for pop. However it was his visit into town with his cousins and his experiences with his grandfather that Alex grows up. He is able to have a firsthand look at how lower class people live, and the struggles that they have to face. He is also able to see the roles that women and men are made to play in a lower class.

The three stories show different boys, of different ages, different social classes, and from different time periods. The growth of each character can be seen over a short period of time, this growth is not physically but morally. By reading the stories the characters’ different situations/stories can be analyzed, and many things can be understood. Some being that social class can affect the way that people grow up, and the way these people might see and understand things. Another being that the time period in which someone is born and grown can tell a lot about their way of life. The world continues to change constantly and different people react to the change in different ways, and this is all due to their background.

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The Coming Of Age Theme In A&P By John Updike, The Blue Chevrolet By Russell Banks, And The Return By H. Beam Piper. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-coming-of-age-theme-in-ap-by-john-updike-the-blue-chevrolet-by-russell-banks-and-the-return-by-h-beam-piper/
“The Coming Of Age Theme In A&P By John Updike, The Blue Chevrolet By Russell Banks, And The Return By H. Beam Piper.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-coming-of-age-theme-in-ap-by-john-updike-the-blue-chevrolet-by-russell-banks-and-the-return-by-h-beam-piper/
The Coming Of Age Theme In A&P By John Updike, The Blue Chevrolet By Russell Banks, And The Return By H. Beam Piper. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-coming-of-age-theme-in-ap-by-john-updike-the-blue-chevrolet-by-russell-banks-and-the-return-by-h-beam-piper/> [Accessed 16 Aug. 2022].
The Coming Of Age Theme In A&P By John Updike, The Blue Chevrolet By Russell Banks, And The Return By H. Beam Piper [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Sept 01 [cited 2022 Aug 16]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-coming-of-age-theme-in-ap-by-john-updike-the-blue-chevrolet-by-russell-banks-and-the-return-by-h-beam-piper/
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