Stories and poems are usually written with a lesson in mind form the Arthur. The Arthur has something to teach the reader or at the vary least put an idea into their mind. The pieces leave an impression for the reader to think about or contemplate over. Some pieces tell of the struggle of the protagonist and end with a fairytale ending, but in life there are not very many fairytale endings. The protagonists have an internal conflict, and they must choose what course of action they must take. In the pieces “A&P” by John Updike and “Where are you going, Where have you been” by Joyce Carol Oats depict the protagonists as doomed to fail. In “A&P” Sammy stands up for the girls to get their attention, he tries to get the girl, but he does not. In the piece “where are you going, Where have you been” it portrays a pretty young girl Connie trying to resist Arnolds insistence to going away with him for a “ride”. These two pieces tell how the heroes go through their own respective struggles that inevitably leads to there own failure. Sammy struggled to defend the gender rights of the girls, while Connie was trying to resist change in gender norms that was forced upon her. Sammy doesn’t get the girl, Connie ends up going with Arnold, what are the lessons that can be learned from main characters, why were they doomed to fail, and how can these lessons be applied to gender.
The first piece is “A&P” written by John Updike, depicts the main character Sammy’s internal conflict with how society viewed three girls in their bathing suits inside the store. Sammy is a funny, young outgoing individual which indicates he may have been more liberal than his co-workers. Sammy was going through his regular routine as a cashier cashing out customers. Sammy was familiar with a certain type of customer, and are described by Sammy as “usually woman with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs” (Updike 19). Sammy did not know he was more liberal, he was going through his usual routine. The girls just came in and unknowingly caused a huge change in Sammy as stated by Joel William Hendrickson “they are unexpected intruders into the main characters’ every day routines, and they represent a way out from the closed world of the main characters” (Hendrickson). as Sammy was watching the three girls walk around the A&P, he started to become infatuated with the one of the three girls. He called her “queenie” because she was the leader “She was the queen. She kind of led them(Updike18). He stared to observe minor details about queenie like how she walks, and how she has so much confidence walking in the store dressed immodestly “She didn’t look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima-donna legs. (updike18) Sammy was in a sort building queenie up in his own head, he started out sarcastically trying to play it down and joking in with his coworker Stokesie. but I think queenie and the other girls caused changed, Updike used these girls like a catalyst to force the change in Sammy. Lengel the store manager starts the reaction by going up to the girls and saying, “girls this isn’t the beach” (Updike, 19) Sammy gets mad and he quits, but why did he quit? He quit to get the attention of queenie, he wants to be her hero, Sammy thought that by standing up for her, he would in a sense “get the girl”. But that’s not what happened “The girls, and who’d blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say “I quit” to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they’ll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero.” (updike20). Sammy did the right thing by standing up for the girls, but he did it for the wrong reason. He stood up for them so they for there attention and admiration, he wanted them to watch their hero shame the man who shammed them. But the girls had already left the store and did not pay any attention to him, Sammy was left with Lengel and a defiant gesture he has started, and regretted his actions immediately because he did not reach the objective he was hoping to receive. Sammy followed through with his gesture, and walked out of the store without the girls and without a job.
The second piece “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. This story describes how young Connie’s was influenced into making a decision to “go for a ride” with a couple men she did not know. While she did resist “going for a ride” with them at first, it did not take very long for Connie to be “coerced” into going with Arnold Friend. But why was Arnold able to convince Connie in to going with him for a ride? Well it all starts with Connie’s relationship to her family, she is always at odds with her mother, she was always being compared to her sister all the time which makes her dislike her sister June. “Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixed-what the hell stinks? Hairspray? You don’t see your sister using that junk”. (Oates 84). Connie also does not have a close relationship with her father because he away for work all the time and dose not talk to her nor her sister very much. Connie’s mother is constantly giving Connie grief, to the point where Connie wishes her mother and her self were dead “Connie’s mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over” (Oates 84).. Connie is very insecure about herself which can be explained by “This habit of always needing to bolster the knowledge that she is beautiful is an indication that Connie is suffering from insecurity, or having an “unstable sense of self.”” (Holmen). This can be seen when her mother tells her to stop looking at herself in the mirror “Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?” (Oats83). Connie’s knows she is pretty, but she must make sure, she must conform to herself that she is still pretty.
when Arnold friend showed up to her door in the golden convertible, he approaches the front porch and talks to Connie through the screen door. In the beginning Arnolds tone was mostly calm and laid back which comforted Connie He asked her to come with him for a ride, but she refused. Connie like most people put in that sort of situation would have refused. But Arnold was persistent about convincing her to come with him. It appears every time he asks, her resolve gets a little weaker. But Connie’s vague attachment to her family does not stand up to Arnold’s persistence, Connie threatened to call the police, but Arnold threatened break in to her house and stop her “” Soon as you touch the phone I don’t need to keep my promise and can come inside. You won’t want that.”” (Oats91). If Connie truly did not want to go with Arnold, it would have been worth the risk to call the police. But Arnold was offering her a way out he convinced her that she had nothing left for her at home “But I promise it won’t last long and you’ll like me the way you get to like people you’re close to. You will. It’s all over for you here…” (Oats 93). In the end Arnold was able to convince her to go with him. Connie was doomed to fail because her attachment to her family was virtually nonexistent, to the point where her attachment was withered away by a stranger.
Sammy and Connie are both the protagonist in their respective stories, the both face gender inequalities in the situations they encountered. Sammy takes personal the way the young ladies in the store were treated by his manager. Sammy believed the way they dressed was not an issue and his way of protesting the issue was by quitting his job. Likewise, Connie struggles with the relationship with her mother and her family. She protests gender norms and her family by being the opposite of the “perfect daughter”, she does go out with strange men. I believe Sammy has other motives that any young infatuated teenager may have. He may be trying to impress the girls because he was hoping to catch them outside. This is the mistake Sammy made that caused him to fail. While he was correct to stand up for the girls, his reasoning and timing was off. He should have been more confident and spoke up sooner, and not wait for them to be on their way out. he should believe in what he is standing up for and not try to show off. In any instance we can say that Sammy was assertive in the actions he took. Connie, on the other hand takes a different approach, she is described as confident and poised. She had a façade she acted like she did not care for the attention, but in reality, she craved it., she wanted to fulfill her own insecurities so she can feel pretty. In the end we see how Connie was manipulated by Arnold. There is an aggressive position taken by the guys in the stories including Sammy and Arnold, whereas both the girls and Connie is more timid and fearful. Both characters are alike in the fact that they faced internal conflicts that put them in the position of failure. Neither Sammy nor Connie were able to fulfill their respective initially objective.
The Arthur in these respective pieces “A&P” by John Updike and “Where are you going, Where have you been” by Joyce Carol Oats depict the protagonists as doomed to fail. The protagonists are put into situations that are very complicated. They made difficult decisions that was not very easy for them, especially since they had to go against the social norms that they were accustomed. This alone would make society’s feeling during that era at odds towards them. Sammy stood up for girls that are were improperly dress which was an unthinkable act of defiance. At the same time Connie was a fifteen-year-old girl that went out for a ride with a strange man that was significantly older. A young female going out with strange men for a ride was unconceivable.