A & P Plot Structure
In the story A & P by John Updike there are many ways of comprehending its meaning throughout the story. This story has a plot structure that is clear and precise. The events of the short story describe the development of the Aristotle plot structure. Its exposition, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution demonstrate the Aristotle plot structure.
The exposition is where the basis or foundation of the story is laid out. There are many different ways to start the basis of a short story, but A & P brings the reader straight into the story. The three girls in beachwear who walk into the grocery store and Sammy, the front cashier, are the two main expositions in the story. These beginning paragraphs not only introduce the girls and Sammy, but expose the kind of people in his working environment as “sheep”. They present the foundation of the story as the invasion of a closed, no-nonsense work setting by characters whom who are the antithesis of the members of this society. The reader is immediately presented with contrast and begins to anticipate the reactions that may ensue. Here, the complication is already being woven into the plot.
This complication continues to develop as the three bathing suit-clad girls traipse up and down the aisles of the A & P. The reactions of Sammy’s co-workers and the shoppers to the girls set the stage for impending conflict. The boss, Mr. Lengel, says to the girls “but this isn’t the beach” (68). After several minutes Queenie, another A;P employee, says “Girls, I don’t want to argue with you. After this come in here with your shoulders covered. It’s our policy” (68). This part of the story leads to the crisis, that is, where a problem could result. The reader is drawn into the story more deeply by the anticipation of the trouble that must surely be about to develop.
The crisis in A ; P begins when the manager, Mr. Lengel or “Boss” comes into the store from being in the back area of the store. This part of the short story shows a little more grinding of the teeth, because the big man on campus has come out. He hasn’t done anything yet but shows his authority with a disapproving, assertive remark to the girls that “This isn’t the beach.” a comment he repeats several times in the course of the story to illustrate the dominion he has over this A & P world (68). This gives the readers a sense of who has control. The crisis is a very strong part of the plot line because it shows where something has the potential of happening. This helps by strengthening the story together as a whole, and brings the story to its peak.
The climax progresses as “the boss” confronts and scolds the girls, invoking righteous indignation not only over their manner of dress, but their frivolous attitudes and obvious lack of respect by entering the sacred A&P displaying such total disregard for the proper conduct required. Mr. Lengel tells Sammy to ring up the purchases so they can vacate the store and orders them not to come back unless properly attired. Sammy complies, and here begins the culmination of the crisis. Sammy removes his A&P apron and quits. He has seen both sides of the conflict and makes a difficult life choice, but only after giving Mr. Lengel one more chance to redeem his actions by remarking, “You didn’t have to embarrass them”(69). His boss defends himself by attacking the girls. “It was they who were embarrassing us”(69). This part of the story is where the excitement of the story is portrayed and is where readers want to find out what is going to happen. It could also be referred to as where the “cream filling” is in the story and illustrates where the story is trying to lead the readers.
The resolution, or its French term “denouement”, is where things are brought together and some sort of a compromise is made. The resolution of A & P is when Sammy quits the store. He was trying to act as the hero of the story in order to impress the girls, but they were already across the parking lot. This part of the story is where a decision is made to resolve the problem that was developing throughout the plot. Sammy’s decision was to quit his job despite his knowledge that his former employer’s comment, “You’ll feel this for the rest of your life.” is true (69). This is where the closing of A & P is shown, and is what the reader has been waiting for throughout the story. The whole story is brought to its conclusion when Sammy decides to stand by his own beliefs rather than acquiescing to the harshness of Mr. Lengel’s.
Via the Aristotle plot structure, there is a clearer way of breaking down the short story A & P. The story can easily be dissected into the exposition, complication, crisis, and climax. All aspects of the story portrayed in the plot show what makes the story hold together and present itself in a way that can be understood. Without Aristotle’s plot structure it would be much more difficult to understand and grasp the concepts the story is trying to portray throughout the plot. Without a strong plot there is no story. But no plot can move so freely and clearly without a structure plan such as the Aristotle.
Updike, John. “A ; P”. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Ed. Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell. Portable ed. New York: Harcourt, 2001. 65-70.