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by John Updike

A&P Theme of Gender

John Updike does something clever and interesting in "A&P": he gives us a lusty 19-year old guy for a narrator and has him perform what Updike calls "an act of feminist protest." Updike is talking about Sammy quitting his job to show the girls in bathing suits that he respects their right to dress the way they like and still be treated with respect. We can look at the girls' behavior as a feminist protest as well. By standing up for their right to wear bathing suits in public, they inspire Sammy to his act. We think the story suggests something powerful – that men and women can work together to create more freedom for both genders.

Questions About Gender

  1. How does Sammy feel about women?
  2. How does Sammy treat women?
  3. As a young man, what are some of the roles and norms Sammy is expected to conform to?
  4. In an interview, Updike describes Sammy's quitting as an act of feminist protest. Do you agree or disagree?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Sammy's disrespectful thoughts about women suggest that his motives for quitting his job aren't entirely pure.

"A&P" shows that men and women can work together to create more freedom for both genders.

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