“A & P” by John Updike

Write a 5 paragraph literary analysis essay of 700-1000 words (roughly 3-4 pages) on the short story “A & P.” Your essay must include:

  • An introductory paragraph that contains the thesis statement.
  • 3 body paragraphs supporting the thesis statement that include direct quotations from the text.
  • A concluding paragraph that sums up the thesis and main points.

Remember, each of the 3 body paragraphs must:

  • Begin with a topic sentence that identifies the point the paragraph will make in support of the thesis and is directly tied to the thesis statement.
  • Contain at least one direct quotation from the text to illustrate/support the point the paragraph makes.
    • The direct quotation must be integrated into the body of your sentence.
    • Be sure to explain what the quoted material means and how it supports the point.

As noted in the syllabus, the introductory and concluding paragraphs should be a minimum of 4 sentences, and each body paragraph should be about 8 sentences.

Adhere to MLA format and include an original title for your essay. Be sure to look at the handout, “1st page of MLA” as an example in the handouts folder.

For this first essay, I will provide you with a thesis statement as well as a topic sentence for the first body paragraph. You must use one of the thesis statements with topic sentence provided. (Consider this a temporary loan – you may not claim this as your own in another class!)

Choose one of the thesis statements with accompanying topic sentence. Following each thesis/topic sentence, I have included some brief strategies that may help you.

Thesis 1:

Through the character of Sammy, the short story “A & P” by John Updike suggests that maturation is a complex process that takes time.

First body paragraph topic sentence:

Sammy’s immaturity is used to show how growing up is a complex process that takes time.

(For thesis statement 1, the first body paragraph will establish Sammy’s immaturity while also contrasting this with some of the ways Sammy is already mature. The second body paragraph could document some of the emotional advances Sammy makes over the course of the story. The third body paragraph could discuss the complexity inherent in Sammy’s decision to quit his job.)

Thesis 2:

The short story “A & P” by John Updike uses the girls’ decision to enter the store, and Sammy’s decision to quit his job to show how the impulsiveness of youth can create generational conflict.

First body paragraph topic sentence:

The girls’ decision to enter the grocery store in only their bathing suits contributes to the theme that youthful impulses can fuel conflict between younger and older generations.

(For thesis statement 2, the first body paragraph will establish the impulsive nature of the girls’ decision to enter the store and examine how the girls’ presence in the store affects the older characters. The second and third paragraphs will examine the effect Sammy’s decision has on Lengel and Sammy’s parents.)

Thesis 3:

The short story “A & P” by John Updike suggests that differences in socioeconomic status become most apparent when classes interact.

First body paragraph topic sentence:

Sammy becomes more acutely aware of the differences in status between himself and the girls through his direct interaction with Queenie.

(For thesis statement 3, body paragraph one will explore Sammy’s increasing awareness of his socioeconomic status and how that awareness amplifies his dissatisfaction. Body paragraph two could examine how Queenie’s conduct is related to her view of herself as holding superior socioeconomic status. Body paragraph three could explore how a desire for a higher socioeconomic status fuels Sammy’s action in quitting his job.)

Thesis 4:

The short story “A & P” by John Updike shows that difficulty can lead to positive outcomes.

First body paragraph topic sentence:

Even though Sammy realizes that quitting his job will make his future difficult, the action helps solidify his sense of self.

(Thesis statement 4 allows for the most positive interpretation of Sammy’s decision. Body paragraph one will explore Sammy’s own interpretation of his action as being positive overall. Body paragraph two could examine Sammy’s increasing awareness of and respect for the girls as people; although uncomfortable for him, it is a positive development. Body paragraph three could explore how a separation from Lengel and even his parents, will help Sammy further his independence. 

To cite a poem, short story, or essay from an anthology locate the following elements and arrange them in the order shown: