“A & P” by John Updike and “Soldiers Home” by Ernest Hemingway Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Nov 2nd, 2019


“A & P” by John Updike and “Soldiers Home” by Ernest Hemingway are stories of two young men facing different situations in their lives. Krebs Harold had gone to war at a young age and had a rough experience all through. When he returned to his home community, his motherland did not appreciate his values and he found it very hard to cope with life.

He was living a life without joy. He was not able to love or appreciate the values of his community. This made him not to be appreciated since his age mates were already settling with good jobs and getting married. He lived an alienated life. On the other hand in A & P, Sammy has a life that was filled with sarcasm and humor. He was always sarcastic and interested in girls.

Setting and Character Development

In A & P, a nineteen year old boy Sammy had just completed his secondary education. He started working in a supermarket. His views about life were shaped in this place. His daily activities in the supermarket brought him across many girls. His encounter with them revealed his thoughts. The writer gave a vivid description of the girls:

In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits…She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs. (Updike 1)

Sammy’s life was filled with humor. The writer used the first person and this gives the reader a direct message from the protagonist. Sammy was a young man whose transition from childhood to adulthood was posing challenges that made him wonder what life was all about. Initially, he had aspirations that he would become a greater person in the supermarket. The most striking thing while working was the presence of these girls who came in bathing suites.

The presence of the girls at the supermarket confused Sammy and at one time this confusion led him to make a second call to a customer that he had already called. The author used imagery to describe the situation at every given moment. He described the dressing of the girls as “They didn’t even have shoes on…the lips bunched together under here no se…With black hair that hadn’t quite frizzed right” (Updike, 1).

Sammy is seen to be a very complicated person as everything mattered to him. He was very hard working and looked forward to a great future in his career. He even aspired to hold a higher position in this job. However, after some time Sammy was seen getting bored with the job and he found it to be quite boring. Although Sammy’s parents en courage him to work harder, it was clear he had lost hope of progressing on that job.

Krebs in the story Soldier’s Home is depicted as a person who had gone through hard times. As a young soldier he experienced brutality in the war. He had a wish in his heart which he wanted to express when he went home:

He wished to tell the truth behind the engagements he fought in, while they bask in the glory their fictional tales of war and detailed accounts of German women found chained to machine guns in the Argonne forest. (DocShare 1)

It is shown that the home community did not provide him a conducive environment to express himself. The community provided a harsh environment that did not give him the freedom of expression. He therefore did not have an audience to share with. This made him to start telling lies so as to get people’s attention (Hemingway 1). This behavior that he adapted is seen to have changed his way of life especially in regard to the way he viewed people.

Krebs did not have a quick way of expressing himself and thus kept on feeling alienated alone. His father was not mostly involved with his issues. Krebs thought about girls he had encountered. He did not like the German and the French girls and seemingly he did not like girls at all; he claimed that a person just requires girls on when thinking about them. He viewed girls as being complicated and therefore thought that he it was only fair if people or rather men kept away from them (Hemingway 1).

Most of the things that Krebs did were in contrast to what he wanted. For example, he was forced to tell lies so as to get approval by those around him. Other things which occurred against his wish include the young man who came home: “He did not want to come home. Still, he had come home” (Hemingway 1). In a different setting, Krebs is seen not able to approach girls which he admired.

The story was set in a family setting where the character of the parents is revealed by the content. Krebs’ mother was very concerned about the son; she took breakfast to his bedroom. Krebs did not believe that his father cared for him; this was clearly shown when his father allowed him to use his car in the evenings and Krebs in turn was convinced that it was his mother who had convinced his father to allow the car to be used by Krebs.

Religious background is deeply rooted in the community. Krebs’ mum was deeply committed to the issues of the kingdom and this led to a conflict between her and Krebs when she reprimanded him in regard to his idleness: “There can be no idle hands In His Kingdom” (Hemingway 1).

In reply, Krebs informed his mother that he did not belong to that kingdom. She told him that she prayed for him all day long. One day his mother prayed for him while they were in the dining room as they were taking their breakfast. After this, Krebs felt uncomfortable being around home and consequently left to find a good place elsewhere (Hemingway 1).

The two stories expose two characters of people. In the first, Sammy did not have the wealth to enjoy. He appreciated the girls in every way and gave a detailed description. He lived in an environment that did not ignore him. This made him to have self confidence to live his life and did not pretend or deny his feelings. Krebs’ case was however different.

His parents’ approach to solve his problem only made the situation worse. He felt inadequate and unable to hold and cope with the pressure that his parents brought along. The two stories have a different place of setting and different time. A & P was told as Sammy worked in a supermarket while in Soldiers home Harold Krebs is raised in Oklahoma in 1917.

Both protagonists, Sammy and Krebs became dissatisfied with their environment. The relationship with girls is not clear as both do not have the courage to approach girls (Hemingway 1). Sammy was emotional while Harold was not.


The two stories are a good representation of two young men in different societies. They were in their time of transition from childhood to adulthood. They are seen to have chosen jobs without caution and not quite sure of what they wanted to do with their lives. As time took its course, they realized there was a need for them to take responsibility in order for them to enjoy the freedom that they needed. They moved out of their status quo to go and discover what life could offer them without the influence of the family.

Works Cited

DocShare. Ernest Hemingway’s Soldiers Home. Doc Share, 2011. Web.

Hemingway. Strong Brain, Ernest Hemingway: soldiers home. Strong Brain, 2010. Web.

Updike. A & P. Tiger Town, n.d. Web.

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