In John Updike’s short story, “The A&P”, he writes of an eighteen-year-old cashier who is infatuated with three girls that enter the store and in Robert Browning’s poem, Porphyria’s Lover, He writes of a man’s intense passion for his lover. Even thought these two works are different in context, they have very striking similarities. Updike’s narrating main character, Sammy, is plagued by middle class monotonous life style. He shows his possessive, but spontaneous side as he describes the girls in the story with great detail and enthusiasm. Browning’s narrating main character, a man unnamed is plagued by his deeply devoted love for his mistress and their inability to marry due to his lower class status. He too, shows his possessive but angry side as he describes Porphyria. The most striking similarity is they both have a selfish side. Sammy becomes a victim and the unnamed man becomes a perpetrator due to their infatuations, which lead to two very different endings.
Updike’s main character, Sammy, is overwhelmed as three young ladies stroll in to the store where he is a cashier. Sammy observers closely as the girls move
from isle to isle describing their every move wondering if there is a “mind in there or just a buzz like a bee in a glass jar?’ As if these girls dressed only in bathing suits, are nothing but mindless dolls there for his pleasure. He watches with contentment, his imagination runs wild as he finds himself in the girls living room with all the guests “picking up herring snacks on toothpicks” and “holding drinks the color of water with olives and spring mints in them”. He compares this to his own family, as serving “Schlitz in tall glasses with “ They’ll Do It Every Time” cartoons stenciled on”. His version is comical as he compares his imagination to true life. He places himself in their living room as if to poke fun because his life is no better. The girls obviously have more class than anything in the store, and he is envious because he can not differentiate himself from the rest of the classless customers who frequent the store.
Throughout the story, Sammy shows how boring and repetitive his life is, and seeing the girls enter the store is a refreshing sight. He refers to the customers as “Sheep” or women with numerous children and “varicose veins” covering there
legs. He even refers to them as a “with “no eyebrows”, who if was born earlier would have burned “over in Salem” . He sees these patrons as numbed into mechanical repletion, believing that if he set off dynamite that most of them would “ keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists” as if nothing ever happened. Sammy is sickened at the loss of divergence of customers, and himself for the daily mind numbering repetitiveness that plagues everyday life at the A&P. His only liveliness at work is the song he hears when ringing out customers “ hello there, you hap-py pee- pul”. This song and the ability to dehumanizes his customers make Sammy’s life seem a little bit better. The anger and disgust show how he views the pitiful town folk who waste their lives away as he does.
Sammy shows the reader his domineering and perceptive side as his description of each girl borders on rude but comical. He is able to pick out the “ Queenie” of the bunch, and names the other “Plaid” and “ Big Tall Goony-Goony”. His description shows that he has an eye for detail, but portrays them as a possession rather than human . The chauvinistic ideological approach show his
immaturity and attitude towards women in general. He seems to find “Queenie” the attractive one who is “more than pretty” with “ prima-Donna legs” and breasts like two of the “ smoothest scoops of vanilla” that he had ever known. The fascination with “ Queenie” is more aesthetic than anything and helps the reader realize that he sees all three are out of his league. He still feels the need to help them as he begins to feel sorry for them, labeling them “ poor kids” as everyone in the store has their eyes on them.
Sammy becomes a victim of his own selfishness as he tried to play the hero to his fascinations. He want to desperately to gain the attention of those girls by staging a scene for them as they are degraded by Lengel, his boss, who instructs them to dress decent in the store “ it is are policy”. Sammy tries to control the situation as he blurts out “ I quit”, as in protest to the embarrassment of the girls and their attire. Lengel, himself is baffled by Sammy’s statement and warns him, I don’t think you know what you’re saying” Sammy shrugs it off and responds, “Fiddle-de-do” and walks out of the store hoping to see “ his girls” out side
waiting for him. To no avail the girls are no where to be found, he then realized that his action had went unnoticed. He turns to see Lengel checking out the “sheep” and realizes “how hard the world was going to be on” him thereafter. All of Sammy’s actions up to this point show how possessively and selfishly na?ve he is. He thinks that the girls will notice his gesture because he was the hero to he injustice of his boss, but he ends up unnoticed, jobless and lonely.
In Robert Browning’s, “ Porphyria’s Lover” , the unnamed man is madly in love with Porphyria, who refuses to marry him. He describes the scene as she enters his cottage and secretly watches her remover her wet cloak and shawl. She has come though a terrible storm that “ tore the elm-tops down for spite” and sets the mood. Shutting the cold out, she kneels by the fire, making it “ blaze up, and all the cottage warm”. The setting outside describes the lover’s mood which is gloomy and intense. His descriptions present a scene that shows he admirers her and finds her warmth appealing. His dedication of love is expressed in her gesture as she made her way through the storm to be with him. His mood is better
expressed as he describes his love for her as “ happy’ and “proud” because he knows that she worships him, but is “too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor”. He loves her deeply but is fearful and disgusted because she is too vain to marry him.
The unnamed man’s love is plagued by his class discrimination and this prejudice prevent Porphyria from marrying him. The description in the poem establish that she is of upper class status, and this is the heart of the poem, class conflict. Porphyria arrives at the cottage from a “gay feast”, well dressed, “and all her yellow hair displaced”. As she enters the cottage and eventually sits down, she is in control as “ she put my arm about her waist” and “ stooping, made my cheek lie there. He refers to the way her hair falls upon her shoulder regarding it as seductive and animosity as her vanity envelops her.
The owning of this woman and this very true. He want to own and possess her and her love as something “ pure and good”. She sees the love they share as nothing but a fling, for she will never lose her status for it. This only enrages him and at “ that moment she was mine, mine”. His statement is of longing to own and control what he cannot have, Porphyria and her love.
The longing for Porphyria’s eternal love and her refusal to commit overwhelms the lover. He knows in that moment “ Porphyria worshiped me” what he must do to have her undying love, strangle her. He takes he yellow hair the statement of her superiority, and wraps it around her neck believing that “ she felt no pain”. As she lies dead on his arms, he kisses her on last time and stares into her blue eyes believing that he has made her happy.. Now the two of them can have the love they shared at the last moment in life, forever. All of her convictions are going along with his, “ its love, am gained instead”. The unnamed man became the perpetrator of his selfish infatuations believing that he has done both of them a favor, the undying love of two people who longed to be together.
These two very different works are close in correlation as for the actions and chauvinistic ways of the characters. Sammy and the lover’s main conflict revolve around the prejudice of class status and restriction the apply. Sammy is stuck at the A&P, and goes unnoticed when he tries to be the hero to three girls out of his league. The lover is overwhelmed with the frustrations associated with his class status because it prevented him and Porphyria from marrying. The resentment both men feel against this prejudice prevent them from making sound decision that leave both lonely and empty handed in the end.