Surviving Adolescence


GENG 248


5 May 2003


Adolescence is a sort of a never-never land between childhood and adulthood. It can be wonderful and diverse and full of expectation. But it can also be filled with uncertainty and constant change. Everything a child learned to trust is suddenly challenged. One day you are a cute kid that everybody seemed to adore, and the next day your skin and body are changing and the calmness you felt is gone. Females begin to outgrow males, risks are taken to get attention, and more energy is focused on what everybody thinks of you. The trusting was about knowing who they were, and how people saw them. And now they may be lost and confused and that “trust” is challenged (Internet, 1). Boys may get assertive and show off or become withdrawn and depressed. Girls may become self-critical and feel hopeless. Most are hyper-aware of what people think of them. Adolescence also refers to the period overlapping puberty but extending beyond it. Puberty is the developmental stage when hormones from the ovaries or testes trigger genital growth and the appearance of other secondary sex characteristics reflecting the ability to reproduce (Internet, 1). In this period of development, a young person further develops his or her identity as an individual and in relationships with others of both sexes. In many societies lengthy education (high school, college or university) has now prolonged this socially defined transition period from childhood to adulthood thus altering traditional sexual norms and expectations for youth and parents. John Updike, John Barth, and Richard Wright are all authors who have written literary works regarding characters who are passing through the different stages of adolescence. I will discuss “A&P”, “Lost in the Funhouse”, and “The Man Who Was Almost A Man” and show you how each of the characters in these works pass through adolescence.


John Updike\'s short story "A&P" is about a teenager who has to make a serious decision. The story is set in an A&P supermarket in a town north of Boston. As the plot unfolds, Sammy changes from being a thoughtless and sexist boy to being a young man who can make a decision, even though it might hurt him. To begin with Sammy is sexist. This is common for boys his age going through puberty. He gives long, loving descriptions of the girls who cause all the trouble, and he thinks at first that girls may not even have minds, suggesting a relation to the sound of a bee buzzing around in a jar. Again, this simple assumption can be applied to the fact that he is still going through his adolescent stage whereas he can’t recognize that girls have the same functions that of men. However, he does change as the plot goes on.


When Sammy makes his decision to quit, Lengel pretends not to understand him, forcing Sammy to reconsider. Sammy still decides to quit. He knows his grandmother would be proud of him for standing up for the girls. However, he does admit that trying to stand up for everyone who is mistreated will make his life hard from now on. You can see how his mental is beginning to change as he makes decisions to stand up for “the others” and quitting his job because of what he stands for.


In A&P, Sammy begins to mature. He is not yet fully an adult, but he has taken a step. Adult life means having to make decisions everyday, and then having to live with those decisions. This is the lesson Sammy has begun to learn in John Updike\'s story.


John Barth\'s Lost in the Funhouse is a short story that centers around a boy named Ambrose who goes on one of three yearly trips to Ocean City with four other members of his family and one girl named Magda. Ambrose secretly has a crush on Magda but cannot find a way to bring himself to let her know that he secretly longs for her. Throughout the story the narrator speaks of Ambrose and his problem of how to approach Magda. Ambrose is coming into the developmental stage where he begins to see the opposite sex as intriguing and not as the enemy.


The title of the story relates to what is going