John Updike’s “A&P” and Characterization

College Transitions

 

General Objective: Considering characterization in “A&P.” Increasing awareness of the information given about characters (direct and indirect, specific and incidental/anecdotal). Transferring that understanding to students’ own writing.

 

Day One

What & Why

Considering first impressions, snap judgments, stereotypes. Reading and listening for character detail.

Execution

Do Now:

In your journal, write about what you can tell about a person just by looking at them. What can you tell by talking to them, or hearing them talk to someone?

 

Write Sammy, Lengle, Stokesie, & Queenie on board, students copy into notebooks and, as story is read to them, make notes about each character as their personality, characteristics, physical appearance is revealed.

Read “A&P” aloud, stopping as necessary to gauge understanding and discuss events, characterization, details, etc.

Homework

 

Assessment

 

 


 

 

Day Two

What & Why

Considering context; this incident might have been responded to differently today. Looking at the different ways people respond to the same things. Searching for more detail.

Execution

Do Now:

What does the fact that he quits his job, with no notice, over what may or may not be an unimportant event tell us about Sammy as a person?

 

1-Reminder: this was a time when a cashier in a supermarket was a decent job, you could raise a family on the salary and it could even be a career with promotions and respect. Quitting this job was a big deal, also, because it’s a small town, everyone knows everyone (Lengle knows his parents) and he might get a reputation as unreliable and find it hard to get another job.

2-Discuss personal responses to specific events, same event seen by many people, all respond differently. One motorcyclist sees a few accidents and sells her bike, another develops a renewed sense of responsibility and rides more than ever; kids walking home from school see some boys beating up another boy, some just walk by, some join the crowd of cheering onlookers, one stops to break it up and possibly saves a life. Why?

3-This small event, it took less than half an hour, changed Sammy’s life, how?

4-Did you notice how much we learned about Sammy and his position just through Updike’s explanation of what happened? How many of you noticed that he wore a bow tie, ironed shirt (by mom, but still, pressed), apron with his name stitched on, much more formal than today’s cashiers. What else did you notice? Working in pairs, find all the language in the story that specifically describes Sammy (looks, job, personality, anything) and write it down, then describe Sammy in your own words. Be sure to create as complete a picture as you can, without using the same words as the author.

Homework

 

Assessment

 

 


Day Three

What & Why

Looking past the obvious, collecting information about characters from their actions and other non-descriptive information. Putting yourself in the story.

Execution

Do Now:

Sammy says, “You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?)” What kind of person asks himself (or anyone else) a question like this? What conclusions do you draw from knowing this is how he thinks?

 

1-Review the description of Sammy you created with your partner on Friday.

2-Consider the less direct information, such as the opinion you formed based on the quote in the “do now.” Working with a different partner than you had Friday, find other examples in the story where Updike gives you information about what Sammy is like, without explicitly saying “he’s like this.”

3-Imagine that, instead of Sammy, it is you in slot number three of the A&P in this small town when the three girls walk in wearing nothing but bathing suits. What do you think? How do you react? Be sure to write your version with enough detail that the reader gets a picture of what kind of a person you are. (Story can be told in large or small store, in current or past time period, whichever you prefer.)

Homework

 

Assessment

 

 

 

Day Four

What & Why

Descriptive writing

Execution

Do Now:

 

 

Continue to work on stories in class.

Homework

 

Assessment

 

 


Day Five

What & Why

Transferring what we’ve learned to your own writing.

Execution

Do Now:

 

Collect stories completed over weekend

 

Think of something that has happened to you – anything, large or small, recent or long ago, and write it down. Begin with an outline of the events as they occurred, then go back and add the details that create texture and character. Review the work you did on “A&P” for examples of descriptive language and ways of explaining small things so that they indicate character.

Homework

 

Assessment