A&P by John Updike and Cathedral by Raymond Carver

A&P by John Updike and cathedral by: Raymond Carver
7 mn read


Cathedral written by Raymond Carver and John Updike’ s A&P are two short stories written in the same era of contemporary literature in the 1950s. Both the writers were Americans novelists living through the 20th century, and it is evident from these two works of them that they observed the transformations in the society very keenly. The present essay is a compare and contrast review of the two famous works of Raymond Carver and John Updike Cathedral and A&P.


An article “Cathedral And A & P” published by the Researchomatic in 2012 suggested that the characters’ representation in both the stories is reflective of the influences on individuals coming from the social, cultural and economic changes occurring in the society underpinned by modernism and mass-mediated communication. The influences of contemporary society transitions on individuals’ social life and sexual orientation are highlighted through the characters of the stories.

Stearns and his co-researchers wrote on the lead character of A&P, “Sammy” that he is sexually inclined towards his female colleagues in the store and the shopper at the store named A&P. He thinks that people are dressed ordinarily and similarly every day, but when the three girls enter the store, he is attracted towards them as they are dressed boldly in swimsuits. He keenly observes the girls coming to the store in their swimsuits, “It was bright green, and the seams on the bra were still sharp, and her belly was still pretty pale, so I guessed she just got it.” Watching them Sammy makes a mistake in his work on the register; other men are also looking at them, the whole store is distracted by them. A quite big portion of the story is comprised of narrator’s physical description of the girls. Sammy and Stoksie, his colleague, exchange views with each other about the bodily beauty of the girls, but suddenly Stoksie goes back into his married social status mode (Stearns et al.)

Saldivar and Tony in their work “ The art of John Updike’s “A&P” in 1997 analyzed the characters of the girls that they are confident and think themselves decent enough and Sammy is amused by this. They are the characters different from the crowd in the society and are portraying the influence of modernism on the personal lifestyle of women of 1950s and 1960s. They refuse the conventional way of living and moving in the community by doing shopping in swimsuits contrasting the “house slaves in pin curlers” Sammy however, is impressed by their boldness and highly likes it. Queenie out of the three girls is a beauty with brains character of the story, portrayed innocent carrying precocity. She frequently visits the grocery store and enjoy people staring at her and feels her self-esteem high in her sexual orientation. She walks around the store in a proud way as she thinks she is elegant and sexually attractive in grasping the attention of the men in town. She has a high opinion of herself (Saldivar & Tony, 1997)

Blodgett, Harriet. “Updike’s A&P.” The Explicator 61.4 (2003): 236-237.

Blodgett and Harriet in 2003 analyzed the character of Sammy portrayed as lusty for the girls’ bodies and is judgmental towards the social and personal life they are living. He is so much liking their way of doing things that when Queenie walks to the counter with a jar of “Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream” Sammy finds it a choice different from the choices of other people. He also thinks it quite cute when the girl pulls out money from her top to pay at the counter and fells the jar getting heavier in his hands. Sexually hungry Sammy in A&P goes in search of sexually explicit people and resigns from the store. He does not want a common grocery man whole his life, to him men working at the store are not living a happy life as he perceives about his male coworkers. He quits the store not only because he wants to explore the charms of the modern world more but also because he disliked his boss’s way to judge people coming to the store by stereotypes. He just finds it bad to treat people differently by their outlooks. This shows the change in perceptions of people about other people and their lifestyles coming through the modernism of that era (Blodgett and Harriet.)

Brown in his work on “The Cathedral” in 1990 looked at the plots and scenes of the story in a house where there are husband and wife living, and wife’s boyfriend in the past visits her. Whereas A&P is plotted mainly in a grocery store with a static character of manager, three girls and Sammy (Brown, 1990). The researcher says that a certain wave of tension flows through the story in Raymond’s Cathedral, threatening of characters’ bankruptcy. A girl tries drawing the old Cathedral with her ex-boyfriend who is visually impaired visiting her in her house. Her husband is not very happy internally to have the visitor in the house; he has such stereotypical perception about the blind people that when Robert (the blind man) smokes and fixes drinks, he gets surprised. However, he gets himself acquainted with Robert that is also surprising to himself (Brown).

Nesset and Kirk in 1995 studied analytically the scenes of acquaintance the husband and Robert in “The Cathedral”. They said that after the wife sleeps in “Cathedral”, the husband and the Robert switch the channels on Television and one single decent program they could find was something about the church and the Middle Ages. The program shows a Cathedral and the husband typically thinks that Robert being blind will not have an idea how it looks like and tries to describe it for him. Robert asks about the paintings of Cathedral, and the husband hardly can describe them effectively. Robert comes up with an idea and requests the husband to bring pen and paper and draw cathedral with him. Not very interested the husband brings the things and start trying drawing with Robert s hand close over his own. He started drawing a “box that looked like a house,” “it could have been the house he lives in.” and continues drawing. Slowly he gets interested in the drawing adding things up in to it, “I couldn’t stop-even as the TV show goes off-air” Robert tells him to draw with eyes closed, he did so and experiences it as great thing to do “like nothing else in his life up to now” After Robert tell to stop as he thinks it’s done, the husband does not open his eyes and has a certain feeling to keep them closed. When Robert asked how it was, the narrator replies “it’s something” (Nesset and Kirk).

Facknitz and Mark told about the central novelty of Cathedral that it is an irony significantly that the character of the husband disdains the visual impairment but later realizes that there is something more than being a just physical thing. The husband is socially disconnected and spends much of his time at home watching Television programs. His views of the world are largely based on what he sees on media especially television and movies. The short story “Cathedral” ‘ s hero is a hitched man who experiences issues making associations with individuals and even his better half, and he appears to have issues perhaps somewhat desirous of the association his significant other can make with other individuals (Facknitz and Mark)

Maimon and his co-researchers did a comparative analysis of “ A&P” and “The Cathedral” They analysed that in both, the stories protagonists go through an experience that makes them change their way of thinking about the world.IN Updike’ s A7P Sammy experiences such epiphany when he decides to resign from the job at the store and Raymond Carver’ s narrator in Cathedral show how the husband experiences epiphany of drawing with closed eyes and feels it amazing about the things beyond physical existence. Sammy comes to dislike the stereotypical view of his boss towards the dressing of people, and the husband has compelling notions of changing his stereotypical perception about the handicapped people. The number of characters involved in the two stories is different, and both are told in different settings. The two stories don’t express a similar generalization esteems, the spouse in “Cathedral” is being generalization against the blinds, and he appears to have his mind made about how all visually impaired individuals are, so in the short story “Cathedral” the blinds speak to the generalization (Maimon et al.).

Kellner and Bruce in 2014 overviewed “A&P”. They are of the view that in “A&P,” for Sammy, it is the young ladies. The impetus change in the two stories is unforeseen, and it is an unsettling influence on the characters ordinary schedule. At the point when the young ladies in swimming outfits entered the store, Sammy was extremely amazed at the young ladies’ thoughtless dress code or conduct: “You know, it’s one thing to have a young lady in a swimsuit down on the shoreline . . . in any case, something else in the cool of the A&P” (John Updike 14). Sammy at that point depicts the standard benefactors of the A&P as “ladies with six kids and varicose veins mapping their legs” (John Updike 14). Sammy has turned out to be somewhat used to the same “regular,” not too bad business dressed benefactors who enter the store. This attracts the parallel to the spouse in “Cathedral” is additionally detracted from his day to day routine when Robert, the visually impaired man comes to visit. He is made a big deal about the out-of-towner coming since he is just comfortable with satisfying himself, and the way that Robert is visually impaired will in all probability entangle his regular day to day existence

In the story “A&P,” Sammy is promptly fascinated by the three females that enter the market. His advantage perhaps incited by the normal inclination of being a young teen and they being three young ladies wearing swim suits. Once the three young ladies advance through the supermarket, Sammy instantly starts making his judgment of their character given the way they walk and the way they look. Sammy while watching the three young ladies, names the center young lady, “Queenie” just given her appearance and the way she strolls. He depicts Queenie condescendingly, “She didn’t glance around, not this ruler, and she just strolled straight on gradually, on these long white diva legs. She descended somewhat harder on her foot rear areas… “(Updike 259) After viewing the young ladies stroll through the supermarket to discover their thing he affronts their insight without having addressed them, “… do you truly believe it’s a brain in there or only a little buzz”… (Kellner and Bruce).


Though both short stories are written in the same era of an early contemporary era, and both have the characters depicting the stereotypes and prejudice of the society. However, both have shown the transformation of characters into the new age. A&P is a coming of age story, in which Sammy as a teenager turns into an adult and highly depicts changed perceptions of the modern society in the 1950s and 1960s. The husband in the Cathedral is a static character, and the manager at a grocery store in A&P also appears to be a static character to the readers as nothing is much special about him but he is there in the story throughout the events. The character of the husband in Cathedral is a person who socially does not connect much with the people. In a comparative overview, John Updike’s A&P and Raymond Carver’ s Cathedral are different as per the atmosphere of plotting in the narration and number of characters involved. Cathedral is a household story within the four walls of a house with a family environment whereas A&P is about interactions of the people happening in a grocery store in a commercial environment. Both the stories have seen the transformation dimensions of individuals caused by contemporary society and mass media.

Posted in Art

Leave a Reply

Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.


Welcome to MyArticles, an author-oriented website. A place where words matter. Discover without further ado our countless community stories.

Build great relations

Explore all the content from MyArticle community network. Forums, Groups, Members, Posts, Social Wall and many more. You can never get tired of it!

Become a member

Get unlimited access to the best stories and articles on MyArticles, support our lovely authors and share your stories with the World.