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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's Play with Sammy in "A&P"

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In A&P, John Updike uses the motif of depersonalization as one of the means by which he develops the character of Sammy, the nineteen year old narrator and protagonist of the story. In its many references to depersonalization, Sammy shows that he uses a recurring theme that figuratively reduces several individuals to an object. During the 160’s, on a Thursday afternoon at the A&P store in a city north of Boston, the attitude the narrator has towards the material presented reflects the character. Although Sammy presents himself as naive, his outstanding imagination given to us from the third person point of view seems to balance his behavior. This limited omniscient point of view helps the reader to understand exactly how the character feels about the situation he is in.


The character Sammy expresses his thoughts and reasoning as not fully developed to a level that is free from coarseness or vulgarity. He refers to the young lady’s body parts as a sweet broad looking can with...two crescents of white(7) and the smoothest scoops of vanilla [he]...had ever known(0). He also depersonalizes her intelligence when he refers to her way of thinking as a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar(7). Another example of Sammy’s immaturity is represented when he reveals a serious matter, such as Stokesie’s children, as two babies chalked up on his fuselage(8). We must remember that Updike’s character is a nineteen year old. To be at such a young age, the character does express a highly developed imagination.


Although Sammy may be presented as immature, he has the great ability to form mental images of something not real or present. He uses this to his advantage when he is dealing with cash-register-watchers(7) by smooth[ing](7) their feathers(7). Sammy found a more subtle way to describe the girls with chubby-berry faces(7) and shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light(7). This character has the great potential to become a very imaginative and well rounded individual. Updike deliberately uses this motif to allow the reader to learn just how a naive nineteen year old develops into a man of great integrity.


Depersonalization, the motif John Updike uses is very effective in his story. The comments that the character used to describe the customers keeps the reader interested. Devaluing people to objects causes t he audience may have mixed feelings about Sammy. This is not an easy task to follow. Not only does the narrator have to maintain a certain level of imagination, but he or she must also obtain a great deal of knowledge about the subject. Sammy indicates an advanced level of intelligence for a nineteen year old, but not an unbelievable one. Updike is very successful with maintaining a realistic view of the character of Sammy.


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