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In John Updike’s “A&P” he tells the story of Sammy, a cashier at an A & P grocery store, and his actions when faced with a situation outside the norm. The story starts out describing what seems to be a normal monotonous day as a cashier at an A&P grocery store when the monotony is broken by three young women walking through the store in bathing suits. Updike uses the mundaneness of the grocery store setting to highlight the women’s actions and the store employees’ actions.
Throughout Updike’s account, he mentions details of the store that lend to the blandness of the setting. As the women move throughout the store he switches between the vivid excited description of the women and their attire and the items they are passing such as dog food and breakfast cereal (Updike, 141). This contrast highlights how out of place they seem.
Furthermore, Updike speaks of the location of the store to emphasize how beyond normal the situation is. “It’s not as if we’re on the Cape, we’re north of Boston and there’s people in this town haven’t seen the ocean for twenty years.” (Updike, 141).
Finally, the setting is used to contrast employees and their actions within the store. The manager, Lengel, fits the mold of the store both inside and out. His reaction to the women matches the description of the area as well as the tone and mood of the store. In contrast, Sammy’s decision to quit his job as a result of Lengel’s actions brings him over to the contrasting side of the three women.
Throughout, Updike succeeds in making the reader feel the mood of the store, one of boredom and normality. This makes the actions and interactions even more interesting. The discomfort of the conflict can be felt by the reader.
Updike, John. “A & P.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, edited by Michael Meyer and D Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s 2020, pp. 140-144.
Peer Response Parameters:
- Posts are at least 100 words
- Posts build upon your peers’ experiences and ideas
- Posts do not reiterate the content of a peer’s initial response instead, they add something new to the conversation by expressing a different perspective
- In your reply, compare and contrast how the setting discussed in the original post compares or contrasts to another work read this week
“The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson, first published in 1948. The story’s setting is established through a series of descriptive details and imagery. The story takes place in a small, unnamed village, “the people of the village began to gather in the square” (Jackson 192). The people are described as friendly and neighborly. The setting is described in detail, including the location of the village and the surrounding area.
The setting is also established through the use of imagery and symbolism. For example, the black box used in the lottery is described as splintered and faded, “the black box grew shabbier each year; by now it was no longer completely black but splintered badly along one side to show the original wood color” (Jackson 193). This creates a sense of tradition and age that is a part of the village and suggests that the tradition is old and worn. The box is used as a symbol to represent the lottery tradition, which is an important part of the village’s history but also has a darker side.
Moreover, the village itself is symbolic. It is a symbol of the dangers of blindly following tradition. The village is a small, closed community where everyone knows each other, yet the lottery is a tradition passed down for generations. Despite its deadly consequences, the villagers’ willingness to participate in the lottery highlights their blind obedience to tradition.
The setting has advanced the tone of the story to be peaceful at the beginning and unsettling at the end of the story. The story begins with a peaceful village where “the flowers were blossoming profusely, and the grass was richly green,” which creates a sense of normality (Jackson 192). However, this peaceful setting is later contrasted with the dark and violent events of the lottery, which creates a sense of unease and discomfort.
Jackson, Shirley. “The Lottery.”
The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, edited by Michael Meyer and D Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s 2020, pp. 192-197
Discussion Response Examples
Discussion Question 1
Authors are not going to come out and explicitly write every detail of a story. However, as readers it is our job to be aware of the setting and the clues provided by the author. As I read “The Story of an Hour,” I noticed how everything takes place in Mrs. Mallard’s house, which is a very small space. However, we have to take into consideration that the story only takes an hour, and the characters don’t really have many places to go. Additionally, the imagery was beautifully incorporated by the author, which helped me as a reader better understand how Mrs. Mallard felt after receiving the news of her husband’s death from her sister and her friend Richard.
Furthermore, the space limitation helped express the themes of the story because, symbolically, it got me thinking that maybe that’s how Mrs. Mallard felt about her life: trapped. Even though she clearly loved her husband, when she goes to her room and says “free, free, free,” it implies that she was dissatisfied with her wife duties, given that women were only expected to procreate and be wives at the time, while men had more power in society. The author writes, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years, she would live for herself” (Chopin). Her first reaction was to go to her room and open the window, indicating that she desperately wanted to be free. When she finally decides to open the door for her sister, who was constantly asking her to open the door, they go downstairs, and right in that instant she sees her husband returning. Moments later, she dies from a heart disease, showcasing how deeply disappointed she was.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, edited by Michael Meyer and D Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s 2020, pp. 15-16.
Hello, Rosery it felt appropriate to respond to your discussion since it was similar to mine, even though I had a different narrative to draw upon. The author of “Everline” included imagery throughout the text to establish the mood and setting. Due to Everline’s experience of feeling submerged, these stories are related. She had to look after her family, yet she still managed to meet the guy she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She wanted to be free but thought she couldn’t since her family came first. She was paralyzed with dread. Both the author and the tone were represented through visuals. Since Mrs. Mallard wanted to be accessible yet felt confined, I believe Everline felt the same way in her predicament about her mother and the subsequent need to care for her family.
Discussion question 2;
The significance of the water imagery is simply stating that the sea is representing the great unknown and it’s key because at the end of the story Eveline’s decision to leave is a difficult one due to the unknowns of leaving and “all the seas of the world tumbled about her heart’ which is describing her actual heart and the health issues she faces with palpitations. Just Eveline’s thought of leaving her home of Dublin is causing a rollercoaster of emotions and stress and the obvious heart palpitations. The statement of drowning is not drowning for real but the fact is she feels Frank is pressuring her into leaving, and that’s the thought of drowning. The sea also is a clear representation of freedom which she is also afraid of.
I think the main reason for Evelin not leaving has to be because of the promise she had made to her mother before her mothers death and that was that her mother asked her to “keep the home together as long as she can”. This decision to not leave is brought about from her mothers promise and even though her father is abusive she proclaims that it is her job as a women to take care of her father. Eveline is very familiar with death and discusses all the people who have died or left her behind. In conclusion Eveline is in fact not in love with Frank, she just seen him as an escape from her current life and therefore decided to not leave with Frank because of the responsibilities she claimed she had and overall her promise to her mother to never get separated.
Joyce, James, 1882-1941. “Eveline”. Dubliners. New York, N.Y. :New American Library, 1991
I used the other short story in my response however I can see some of the parallels being used through the use of imagery and setting.
In the work that I looked at the author used the setting as another form of restriction against the character, in this story it was a house that she was living in with her husband.
Looking at your response it looks like there is a very similar concept happening between the two stories, this being that in your short story, the promise the character made to her mother about “keeping the house together” is also quite impactful.
This concept of being restrained and tied down through the use of an object (which in both stories it is actually the same object (as house))) demonstrated a pretty obvious parallel in the use of setting.
Discussion Question 1
The Story of an Hour is a short story by Kate Chopin that takes place over a very short time. The story’s main character is Louise Mallard, who has just received the news of the death of her husband. The story’s events primarily occur in her bedroom, the staircase, and the front door of her home. The actions are confined to a small space to express essential themes.
The limited space symbolizes the suffocating nature of Louise’s life. Louise’s room is described as “a comfortable, roomy armchair” in which she sits and weeps when she first hears the news of her husband’s death (Chopin 15). Also, the armchair is symbolic; it shows the mental and emotional turmoil experienced in the marriage. The limited setting also allows the author to focus on the psychological state of Louise Mallard and examine her internal emotions, thoughts, and feelings. As a result, it makes it easy for readers to enter the mind of Louise and have an insight into the struggles she goes through as a woman in a traditional and patriarchal society.
Moreover, the staircase and front door represents the possibility of escape and freedom. When Louise initially hears the news of her husband’s death, she retreats to her room and sits in the armchair. However, as she begins to process the news and imagine life without her husband, she becomes increasingly excited at the thought of her newfound freedom. The imagery of the staircase and front door heightens the emotion, which symbolizes the path to freedom and autonomy.
Additionally, Louise experiences emotional turmoil as she fights against societal expectations: “she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She seemed to be oppressed by a great weight of mystery” (Chopin 16). She was feeling miserable about losing her husband and also wanted to embrace her newfound freedom.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.”
The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, edited by Michael Meyer and D Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s 2020, pp. 15-16.
Alice even though our short stories are different they are both common to one another. In your story a woman (Louise) is trapped in a marriage she isn’t happy with as compared to the story I read has a girl who is not happy with her life with her father due to being a drunk and mother had passed away and both want to escape their current lives.
Both suffer from a whirlwind of emotions while trying to process and imagine life outside their current ones but the stress of the unknowns take a toll on them. Louise eventually dies from her heart disease where as the girl in my story Eveline has health palpitations as well and are worsened from the stress and worries of the great unknown but in the end Eveline ultimately decides to keep her promise to her mother and stay and not leave with her lover Frank in the end. Good post.