“Growing Up”

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In “Teenage Wasteland” (648-654) by Anne Tyler and “A&P” (220-224) by John Updike the authors show us that growing up is a difficult thing to do. In the process of growing a person must decide whether or not they will conform to society’s way of doing things. This decision that must be made can cause social problems, problems in self discovery, and it can ultimately cause the person to completely run away from their problems all together. Both authors show that growing up is a difficult time in the life of a person. A person has to decide whether or not they want to conform to the way society does things or carve their own path in this world.

In “A&P” Sammy is forced to decide whether he wants to be a part of the business world which is full of “fluorescent lights” (221) and “stacked packages” (221) or Queenies world which is full of “bathing suits” (220). In “Teenage Wasteland” Donny has to decide between being a good student and going to “every class” (648) or having fun and “cutting classes” (649). In both stories a decision must be made between doing what society expects and doing what you want to do. In “A&P” and in “Teenage Wasteland” the decision made to not conform to societies ideas resulted in social problems for the main characters.

In “A&P” the main character Sammy decides that he does not want to work at the grocery store anymore and his boss tells him that he “doesn’t want to do this to his mom and dad” (223) which implies that quitting his job would cause problems at home. Also, Sammy is glad that it is summer so that he would not have to fumble “around getting his coat and galoshes”(224) which probably means that he is concerned about what others think about his decision to quit and wants to get out of the store as quickly as possible. In “Teenage Wasteland” Donny’s habit of cutting class and not doing his homework cause him a lot of problems at home and at school.

Donny’s perceived that the school was getting on his back and “making a big deal about anything he did wrong” (649). Also, Donny’s parents enforced a curfew and would “always telephone first to see if any parents would be chaperoning” (650) if Donny went to a party. Donny’s parents did all of this because Donny was experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Although both Donny and Sammy were experiencing social problems because of their decision not to conform to societies standards the consequence was much more severe in “Teenage Wasteland”.

Donny eventually went too far and got expelled from school because of some items that he had in his locker. Both authors show that despite the evident social problems caused by not conforming to society teenagers often do not conform because they are in a process of discovering who they are outside of what society and their parents think they should be. The teenage years are definitely a time of self discovery and this part of growing up is not lost in either of these short stories.

In “A&P” Sammy is discovering that the world he is in is not the world that he is meant to be in and when he decides to leave the world of “fluorescent lights”(221) and “stacked packages”(221) he realizes “how hard the world was going to be”(224) for him from here on out. He left though because he was upset with how his manager had made “the pretty girl blush’ (224) when he asked Queenie and her girls to cover up more when they come into his store. Sammy was making a decision that was based on whet he felt to be right and not what he was told was right.

This shows that he was discovering something about himself. In “Teenage Wasteland” Donny felt that his parents were “too controlling” (650) and that school was a “prison” (649). He even said that he did his homework but “it was not exactly like they wanted it” (650). Throughout the whole story Donny is constantly fighting anyone who tries to tell him how he should do things. It is evident that Donny is trying to forge him own unique identity. At the end of both stories the journey to find one’s self ultimately leads to both characters running away from their current situation.

Sammy in “A&P” quits his job and tries to follow Queenie and her girls. In “Teenage Wasteland” Donny didn’t “come home one evening” (654) from his new school and after three months no one had heard from him. Donny ran away from home and never came back. Even though the consequences to growing up were much more severe in the story “Teenage Wasteland” it is obvious that both stories are about the problems associated with growing up. In both stories the authors portray these problems in different ways it is still evident that growing up is a time of challenging society and discovering ones self.

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