Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" And John Updike's "A & P"

920 words - 4 pages

The assigned topic for this essay was to compare Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” and John Updike’s “A & P”. This essay reviews common themes connecting the two stories characters and plots. Typical five paragraph essay style, short and to the point. The source of the stories was Kennedy and Gioia’s Literature: An Introduction To Fiction, Poetry, and Drama; one other internet source was used. The works cited page is in MLA format.“Everyday Use and A & P”Updike’s “A & P” and Walker’s “Everyday Use” both use a first person perspective to introduce the conflicts each narrator must address. Each story’s conflict centers around social status and culture as well as moral character. In “A & P”, Sammy must decide whether he should stand up for what he believed is right and reject his boss’ unfair treatment of the young female customers or continue in his obedient societal position as a cashier, checking the “sheep” through the register (Updike). Mama’s character, in “Everyday Use”, faces conflict with her daughter Dee when she realized that while she and her other daughter Maggie live their culture, Dee had forgotten what her heritage meant and wanted only to use it to show her superiority. Each character is forced to make a decision based on their values.“A & P” centers around 1960s white American culture. In this time, each person conformed to the culture and performed their duties as outlined by the corporate rules set by society. Sammy checked the “Sheep” through the checkout and his boss, Lengle, maintained order and enforced the rules of the establishment. When the three scantily clad girls entered the store, to Sammy, they represented freedom, elevated social status, and the embodiment of his sexual desires. In quitting his job, Sammy freed himself from the establishment all the while sticking up for the girls’ right to respect that was denied them by Lengle. Though, it was hisnaïve, and perhaps juvenile, romanticism that brought about his decision to quit, the result was his own personal growth into an adult.The conflict in “Everyday Use” stems from a clash of cultural ideals between Mama and her daughter Maggie versus her other daughter Dee. Mama and Maggie were left behind to a life of farming and fending for themselves, a life rich in their African American heritage. Dee, however, went away to school where she assimilated the then-current American culture. When Dee returned home for a reunion with her family she obviously displayed a lack of reverence for her African American roots. She treated her mother and sister like idiots who didn’t know any better than to be simple.“Dee sees herself as belonging to a higher intellectual and...

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