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John updike: A product of his times

| December 19, 2012

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John Updike lived a life filled with the adventures of reading. Updike was a very successful writer who used his superior experiences with reading and memories of his own life to influence his work. He is best known for his most prominent stories such as “A&P” and his “Rabbit” books. Updike is also well known for his explicit and lustful description of women like the way he describes the women in “A&P”. In “A&P” Sammy, the main character, becomes Updike’s alter ego, acting out in ways which Updike’s upbringing prevented him from even contemplating and emphasizing both men’s continuous struggle with sex, marriage, and morality.

Updike was born a man with great potential. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on March 18, 1932, but was raised in the small town of Shillington until he was thirteen (“John Updike.” LitFinder). Updike’s parents were very influential figures of his writing especially because “…his mother a writer who, as her son did, wrote stories for New Yorker magazine”(“John Updike.” LitFinder).  John Updike’s home filled with the creative opinions of his family “…prepared the way for a prolific career which began in earnest at the age of 22, upon the publication of his first story, “Friends from Philadelphia,” in the New Yorker in 1954”(“John Updike.” Encyclopedia). John Updike was married to Mary Pennington in 1953 (“John Updike.” LitFinder). They had four children together but in 1977 the couple divorced and he later married Martha Bernhard (“John Updike.” LitFinder).

Updike.” Encyclopedia). John Updike writing took on several styles and forms but his “…primary concerns are Protestant, middle class, contemporary American life, and the roles that marriage, divorce, sexuality, and religion play in it” (“John Updike.” LitFinder). “A&P” concerns the view of three women who walk into the local market and are being observed by the cash register, Sammy (“A&P-John Updike”). At the time that Updike wrote “A&P” he had already been married for eight years and remained married for another sixteen years after that (“John Updike.” LitFinder). His lustful and detailed description of the women in “A&P” suggests that Updike was conflicted between his role as a faithful, responsible, husband and that of a romantic, impulsive young man, free to act upon his desires (“A&P- John Updike”). In “A&P” Updike cautions the reader about the perils of indulging in romantic love, which lead Sammy to make an abrupt and foolish decision in quitting his job for the purpose of gaining romantic attention from the women (“A&P-John Updike”).

Although raised in a conventional family, Updike wrote about living a non- conventional life style. Updike lived a life consumed with the adventures of reading and writing, which lead to an extremely creative and lustful imagination bringing about a series of outstanding and risqué stories (“John Updike.” Encyclopedia). In “A&P” the girls enter the store in clothes rather inappropriate for the market (“A&P- John Updike”). Based on their beach-like attire it can be said that “They are more widely known creatures who had fish bodies and so came to be seen as mermaids and above all as symbols of seduction”(Blodgett, Harriet).

Updike was a product of the times he lived in. John Updike’s writing was simply outstanding including his poetry which“…[possessed] several stylistic conventions shared by his fiction: careful attention to the sounds of words and the nuances of their meanings…”(“John Updike.” Encyclopedia). Updike uses allusions to give the audience of “A&P” the knowledge of dramatic irony as an attempt to help the readers better understand the story (Saldivar, Toni).

While his own upbringing prevented him from even contemplating the way in which Sammy acted out, Updike tried to live a stable life while constantly struggling with sex, marriage, and morality. Updike’s own life considerably influenced many of his stories. His early life was devoted to the creativity of reading and writing, which, in turn brought about a lustful imagination depicted in several of his stories. As evidenced in his story “A&P” the author’s own, internal struggles play a significant role in his writing. John Updike had a noteworthy impact on the styles of writing that were most prevalent in his times.


“A&P – John Updike.” T- .c2kl. Web. 06 Apr. 2011. <>

Blodgett, Harriet. “Updike’s A&P.” The Explicator 61.4 (2003): 236+. General OneFile.Web.22 Mar. 2011. <…oOfPages=6&inPS=true&pageIndex=0&relatedDocld=&scale=&queryld=R12>

“John Updike.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 15. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 390- 392. General OneFile. Web. 22. Mar. 2011 <…noOfPages =3&inPS=true&pageIndex=0&relatedDocld=&scale=&queryld=R1>

“John Udpike.” LitFinder Contemporary Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2007. LitFinder for Schools. Web. 5. Apr. 2011 <>

Saldivar, Toni. “The Art of John Updike’s ‘A&P’. “Studies in Short Fiction 34.2 (1997): 215. General OneFile. Web. 22. Mar. 2011 <…oOfPages=6&inPS=true&pageIndex=0&relatedDocld=&scale=&queryld=R12>

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