Compare and/or contrast the ways these two stories present the “initiation” into adult life.

“A & P” by John Updike “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates These two stories can be seen as initiation stories; they tell the journey of a young person coming of age and moving toward adulthood. These stories explore how the young protagonist sets out to claim independence from family, to define his/her own identity, and to decide his/her own values and goals. Compare and/or contrast the ways these two stories present the “initiation” into adult life. What similarities and/or differences do you see in the motivations of the main characters, their conflicts, their eventual fates? Some examples of questions you can start with: Is one character more successful in his/her initiation? Are there differing maturity levels in the characters? Do any differences arise out of the fact that the two main characters are of different genders? Are there any similarities or differences in the societies that surround these main characters? Are there any similarities or differences in their families and family life? These are just a few examples. You don’t have to answer these particular questions. I’m providing them for you as starting points if they are helpful. You may have thought of your own questions already, and that’s a great place to start the analysis. Remember that your thesis statement must make an arguable point, so you must go beyond pointing out the similarities and/or differences. You must explain what those similarities/differences indicate. What is their significance? Why are they important? What do they tell us about Updike’s and Oates’ ideas about young people, about becoming an adult, about the ways society helps (or does not help) children grow up to be strong adults? These question indicate just a few ways you can look at the issue of significance. You may see some other very different significance in the similarities and differences, and that’s great. The point is, just listing the similarities and differences is not enough. The majority of your essay should explain the significance of those similarities and differences.

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