Of Innocence Lost
Innocence is a quality that is often taken for granted and abused. In the following three stories, Margaret Atwood’s “Stone Mattress”, Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” and John Updike’s“A&P”, the three main protagonists deal with a common theme- that of innocence lost and the consequences of your decisions. Innocence is one of the few things that can be lost by making one simple decision. Unfortunately, it is also one of the seldom found things that one can’t take back. We are ignorant of our innocence until we realize that it has left us behind. In John Updike’s “A&P” we meet Sammy, a nineteen year old opinionated, sarcastic teenager whose youthful ignorance and superiority complex becomes shattered by the arrival of the three girls who come into the A&P to shop. His desire to be one of them, accepted by them, leads him to quit his job. The irony of Sammy’s sense of superiority is that he realizes in the eyes of the girls he is just like the sheep that shop in the store. His desire to set himself apart and prove he is different is what causes him to quit his job. Sammy quit his job not on a matter of ideals, but rather as a means of showing off and trying to impress the girls, but Sammy’s motive runs much deeper than that. He was searching for a sense of personal gain and satisfaction. By taking sides with the girls, he momentarily rises in class to meet their standards and the standards of the upper-class. Sammy realizes that Queenie comes from this sort of background, a very different one from his. When Queenie is being harassed by Lengel, Sammy sees that "she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy" (Updike). Queenie’s family was in the class that he envied, that he admired, that he wanted to become a part of. In resigning Sammy exercises his desire to make a change, a new life with new opportunities beyond those of his limited experiences. In...
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