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The A & P Vs. Porphyria's Lover

1714 words - 7 pages

McWherter 1 The A &P vs. Porphyria's Lover InJohn Updike's short story, "The A & P", he writes of an eighteen-year-old cashier who is infatuated with three girls that enter the store and in Robert Browning's poem, Porphyria's Lover, he writes of a man's intense passion for his lover. Even though these two works are different in context, they have very striking similarities. Updike's narrating main character, Sammy, is plagued by his middle class monotonous life style. He shows his possessive, but intuitive, side as he describes the girls in the story with great detail. Browning's narrating main character, a man unnamed is plagued by his deeply devoted love for his mistress and their inability to marry due to his low class status. He too, shows his possessive but angry side as he describes Porphyria. The most striking similarity is they both have a selfish side. Sammy becomes a victim and the unnamed man becomes a perpetrator due to their infatuations, which lead to two very different endings.Updike's main character, Sammy, is overwhelmed as three young ladies stroll in to the store where he is a cashier. Gilbert Porter writes in his 1972 essay, "something about their demeanor suggests a remote, upper-class lifestyle that contrasts with his own" (319). Sammy observes closely as the girls move from isle to isle describing their every move, wondering if there is a "mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?" (421). As if these girls, dressed only in bathing suits, are nothing but mindless dolls there for his pleasure. He watches with contentment, his imagination runs wild as he finds himself in the girls' living room with all the guests "picking up herring snacks on toothpicks" and "holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them" (Updike 423). He compares this to his own family, as serving "Schlitz in tall glasses with "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoons stenciled on" (423). His vision is comical as he compares his imagination to true life. He places himself in their living room as if to poke fun because his life is no better. The girls obviously have more class than anything in the store, and he is envious because he cannot differentiate himself from the rest of the classless customers who frequent the store.Throughout the story, Sammy shows how boring and repetitive his life is, and seeing the girls enter the store is a refreshing sight. He refers to the customers as "sheep " or women with numerous children and "varicose veins" (421) covering their legs. He even refers to one of them as a "witch" with "no eyebrows", who if was born earlier would have burned "over in Salem"(421). He sees these patrons as numbed into mechanical repetition, believing that if he set off dynamite that most of them would "keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists" (422) as if nothing ever happened. Sammy is sickened at the loss of divergence of the customers, and himself for the daily mind numbing...

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