Lesson 9 Teenagers: John Updike



Some terms brands you might need to understand before you read:

A&P is short for the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, and it is a chain of grocery stores on the East Coast of America.

Diet Delight Peaches are canned peaches in a syrup made with saccharine instead of sugar. With today's juice-packed fruits, they are no longer available.

Schlitz is a low-cost brand of beer.

Pre-reading question:

1. What is the setting of the story?
2. What kind of narrator does the story have?
3. Vocabulary: "can" (paragraph 1) this is slang, so you might not find it; prim (paragraph 5), joints (paragraph 11), chute, (paragraph 30), asphalt (paragraph 31)

Post-reading questions:

1. What is the significance of the story's final line? What do you think Sam has learned by this episode?
2. What is the role of Stokesie? To what extent does he serve as a foil to Sammy? (foil: a character that offers a "reflection" of another)
3. How does Sam reveal his own values and attitudes throughout the story?
4. Sam uses a number of animal metaphors for the customers in the story. What kind of image does this paint? What does it tell us about Sam? What about the woman at his register at the beginning of the story - how does he feel about her? Why do you think he feels this way?
5. Why does Sammy quit his job so suddenly? Is his gesture genuinely heroic or is it merely the misguided idealism of a rebellious adolescent? How is it prepared for earlier in the story? Why is it ironic?
6. Do you see any forms of oppression at work in the story? Who is oppressed (or "embarrassed" for that matter)? Is Sammy's standing up for the girls in some way a form of standing up for himself?

Related Links:

A John Updike homepage: http://userpages.prexar.com/joyerkes/

The New York Times Updike page. Who would have thought? http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/11/19/specials/updike.html

The New York Review of Books Updike page: http://www.nybooks.com/authors/158

Audio interview with Updike: http://wiredforbooks.org/johnupdike/

Links to Literature Updike page: http://www.linkstoliterature.com/updike.htm

Salon interview with Updike: http://www.salon.com/08/features/updike.html

Joyce Carol Oates (lesson 10) on Updike: http://www.usfca.edu/fac-staff/southerr/onupdike.html

Harvard Lampoon homepage: http://www.harvardlampoon.com/

The Protestant Work Ethic. http://www.tartanplace.com/tartanhistory/protestantrules.html


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