Stereotypes are widely held views of certain groups or cultures. Many people fit under these generalizations. However, there are some who contrast with the stereotypes of their group. In the short story “A & P”, by John Updike, the character “Queenie”, is not represented as a stock,or in other words “stereotypical” character.
The story begins with the narrator noticing three girls entering the supermarket in their bathing suits. The leader of the girls is not given a name but she is known as “The Queen” since the narrator considers her to be the prettiest among them. “She had on a kind of dirty pink- beige maybe, I don’t know- bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down.” (Pg. 19) By showing an extreme amount of skin in a public place, Queenie is expressing power and confidence in her sexuality. The reader can also see that she does not care about how the others perceive her when she keeps her head held high and ignores the disapproving stares from the shoppers. “A few house slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct.” (Pg. 20) This is very shocking to the public because this was not seen as socially acceptable. This story is set in a time where girls were expected to always cover up. Individuals are considered respectable if they fulfill society’s expectations. Queenie being in a bathing suit went against societal and religious standards. This causes the fellow characters to see her as overly sexual and improper. These are characteristics that are associated with people who are trashy and low-class.
Queenie was also judged negatively by what she did not have. “Now her hands are empty, not a ring or bracelet, bare as God made them, and I wonder where the money’s coming from. Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubble pink top.” (Pg. 21) Even though the narrator saw her carrying money in her cleavage as cute, the majority would have seen that as inappropriate. She had to carry the money in her cleavage because she did not have anything else on her person. A major sign of the difference between classes is the way its members dress. A stereotype of high-class women is that they wear the latest fashion along with expensive jewelry and designer handbags. While the men wear equally costly suits, watches, and loafers. People of a lower class are thought to wear cheaper clothing and accessories. Since Queenie was only wearing a bathing suit in public, it was easy to assume that she did not possess anything of high value.
Towards the end of the story, the narrator realizes the Queenie is of a higher class than anyone else in the store. “My mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks…Her voice kind of startled me, the way voices do when you see the people first.” (Pg. 22) Herring snacks are a fancy and expensive item that only rich people would have. This contrasts greatly with the lower quality food Sammy’s family would have at a gathering. The tone of her voice and the way she pronounces words also illustrates the fact that she is of a higher class. She sounds sophisticated and refined which greatly differs with the average person. Her status is also revealed in the way Queenie responds to the store manager for scolding her. “We are decent,” Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A&P must look pretty crummy.” (Pg. 22) Instead of apologizing for breaking the store’s nude policy, Queenie talks back to the manager. This act of defiance portrays her feeling of superiority over someone she considers of a lower class. Since she sees him as beneath her, she refuses to listen to him and gets upset when he embarrasses her.
In the short story “A & P” by John Updike, the character Queenie is not represented as a stock, or “stereotypical” character. At first, she was perceived as a trashy and low-class girl because of the way she was dressed. However, it turned out that she was a character of a highand wealthy status. This is a prime example of the saying: “Do not judge a book by its cover”.
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