Essay on Elements of Fiction

Published: 2021/11/11
Number of words: 854

Sammy, a teenage boy who operates as a cashier in a grocery store, tells the narrative in John Updike’s poem “A$P”. He decided to quit his job as a way of standing up for the unethical treatment of three teenage girls, led by Queenie, who walked into the store dressed in swimsuits. The elements of fiction are the theme of adolescence to adulthood transition, the first point of view, Sammy character, setting, tone and style, and plot elements to help Updike bring out the intended meanings.

First, the central theme is the adulthood transition from teenage. This transition brings the internal conflict between the ideals, realities and the inevitable consequences of Sammy’s impulsive actions. “Once you begin a gesture, it’s fatal not to go through with it” (Updike 3). Lengel advises Sammy about quitting his job that it is not a wise idea. Being young and naive, Sammy realizes he is telling the truth about hurting his parents, but he must stand up with ‘his girls’ throughout the poem with pride. With Sammy’s teenage age, the poem is an example of a coming-of-age story.

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Secondly, the vantage point in which the narrative is told is the first point of view. Sammy is telling the story and therefore affects the plot and theme of the story. The town members were “sheep”, and Queenie “was the queen; she kind of led them” (Updike 1). Being fascinated by the three girls, Sammy is biased, and we cannot get a clear view of the story; he is positively inclined toward the girls. Sammy’s distinctive voice is like he is talking with the use of present tense. The first point of view makes the story realistic but at the same time portrays cynical observations.

Furthermore, the setting is on the grocery store in New England during the cold war reflects Sammy’s inner world and the unfulfilled life. The A$P is a clear comparison to today’s Wal-Mart, which sells various merchandise, and people can walk in dressed as they please. “The people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering” (Updike 1). Sammy is confined in a small shop with non-thinkers, and when he sees the girls, he wishes to have the same freedom and luxurious lifestyle. The three girls’ appearance makes the story scandalous and, therefore, a large reaction to the modern and conservative periods.

Updike distinguishes between the lifestyles of different teenagers and parts of society using Sammy and Queenie, who are both round and dynamic characters. Sammy talks about how the residents in his town were a bunch of ‘sheep’ where people dressed and acted the same way. With Queenie, it is different when he says, “the longer her neck was, the more of her there was” (Updike 1). His interest in girls who are fun and beautiful is clear. On the other hand, Queenie changes from a cool and confident character to losing them all. She loses her cool when Lengel talks to her and is not confident enough when she leaves the store. Both characters have the three dimensional of the real people by being round and dynamic.

Subsequently, the plot element consists of exposition, rising actions, climax, falling action and resolutions. ‘A$P’ is about the teenage cashier in the England based grocery store during the 1960s. The appearance of the three teenage girls dressed in a bikini led to a supercilious confrontation from Lengel, which causes a rising tension in Sammy hence the climax. The girls leaving force Sammy to quit his too, but still, the girls did not recognize his gesture, and he becomes sad with the irresponsible decision. However, he concludes by saying, “and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (Updike 3). He considers this a brave move to set him free to explore the freedom and excitement of life. Therefore, the plot elements bring about Sammy’s character, the setting and the moral of the story.

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Also, the tone and mood of the poem portray the issue of conformity. The tone contains certain humor, and there is the presence of darkness too. The mood also shifts from being light to extremely apprehensive. At some point, Sammy’s mood shifts, and he says, “then everybody’s luck begins to run out” (Updike 2). Even with Sammy being able to achieve his desires, it ends in a note of loneliness and dread. Sammy mood and tone explain his life and the example of the trauma he experienced during the teenage years.

In conclusion, the elements of fiction are the theme of adolescence to adulthood transition, the first point of view, Sammy character, setting, tone and style, and plot elements to help Updike bring out the intended meanings. The elements of fiction all combined form the basis of the poem and the whole narrative theme. The main theme is the realism of teenagers when transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

Work Cited

Updike, John. A&P. public schools, 1962.

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