“a&P” and “Barn Burning”: a Compare and Contrast Essay”

Sammy from John Updike’s “A&P” and Sarty from William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” are two great examples of young people raising their standards and doing what they believe is right. In “A&P”, Sammy is nineteen years old and works at a local grocery store named the A&P. His life changes the day he quits his job after defending three girls that are “called out” by Lengel, the manager, for breaking the unwritten dress code. In “Barn Burning”, Sarty is a ten year old boy who struggles between the fine line of right and wrong when his father, Abner Snopes, is put on trial for burning down a barn.
When his father attempts to burn down another barn, Sarty takes charge and warns the owner. “A&P” and “Barn Burning” are short story classics that have many similarities as well as differences. While both Sammy and Sarty are dissatisfied with their figures of authority, the time periods in which they live are extremely different. A very noticeable similarity is the fact that both young men are dissatisfied with their authority figures. In the beginning of the stories, one will see that Sammy and Sarty are not like their main influences.
Each young man has a mature understanding of their unfortunate lives and how they must break the mold to better themselves. Stokesie, Sammy’s friend and co-worker, is twenty two years old and married with two kids. His biggest dream is to become a manager of the A&P someday. Sammy describes Stokesie’s life as a perfect example of his future if he continues working at the A&P. To him the A&P is a dead end job; but in the eyes of his Lengel and his family it is an acceptable future. Lengel is the manager of A&P as well as the town’s preacher. He plays an important role as Sammy’s authority figure.

When Sammy quits, Lengel tries to persuade him to stay and makes it very clear that leaving the A&P will be a huge mistake. This is an excellent reflection of Sammy’s authority figure and the close minded ways he must escape. Sarty’s major authority figure in “Barn Burning” is his father. Abner is a poor sharecropper who is bitter towards wealthy plantation owners and has a tendency to destroy their property. Sarty never justifies his father’s actions and is aware that if he allows things to remain the same, he will become a product of his environment.
This is his motive for warning Abner’s next barn burning victim and his chance to move on with his life. The time periods and locations in which “A&P” and “Barn Burning” take place are very different. Sammy lives in a more favorable time in the United States than Sarty. “A&P” is set in a small town north of Boston, Massachusetts around 1960. At this time, the United States was the main military manufacturer and financial power in the capitalist world. The “Hippie Movement” just started and shocked many traditional families with a new way of living. Sarty lives in Mississippi about twenty years after the Civil War.
Life was tough for Mississippians post Civil War. The Southern states were in debt and devastation from the war was everywhere. Although America was transforming into a more modern country in both stories, the time periods in which they live are completely opposite. Sammy and Sarty are two protagonists that have to mature beyond normal circumstances and experience the “real world” at tender ages. Each character is forced to grow up and refine themselves in their darkest hour. Sammy and Sarty are both dissatisfied with their authority figures; however, the time periods in which they live take place in different eras.

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