Theme Of Realism In Poker Night By John Updike

1392 Words6 Pages
“The cards began to come to me, under the naked bulb, the aces and deuces and the queens with their beautiful cold faces, and I really only made 2 mistakes that night” (Updike 5). This is one of many quotes John Updike uses throughout his works to call attention to his abundance of symbolism. This particular quote comes from his short story Poker Night, a story told from the point of view of a man who, after he has just been told he has cancer, goes to play poker with his friends like he has been for 30 years. This particular quote, like many of his others, uses mundane realism to call attention to his symbolism. In this particular case he is using the character’s poker luck to symbolize his life. When Updike says “and I really only made 2…show more content…
The story is centered around Sammy, a 19 year old clerk at an A & P grocery store in coastal Massachusetts. It is based upon the scenario of 3 teenage girls walking into the grocery store in nothing but bathing suits. This makes for a rather interesting story, with Sammy becoming fixated with the girls, and even though the story takes place over the period of about 20 mins, it has a very complex theme. The theme is told mostly through symbolism, which is why Updike uses realism, causing reader to make an inference about the symbols he uses. For example, when Sammy is ringing up a purchase, a seemingly boring task, Updike gives the reader insight to Sammy`s mind:
I go through the punches 4, 9, GROC, TOT -- it’s more complicated than you think, and after you do it often enough, it begins to make a little song, that you hear words to, in my case “Hello (bing) there, you (gung) hap-py pee-pul (splat)”-the splat being the drawer flying out (Updike 4)

Though this may seem like a very simple and inconsequential part of the story, it actually is. It leads the reader to understand that Sammy is bored with his job. The song shows how he is uninterested with what he does, as anybody would be being a store clerk. However, knowing he’s 19, we can understand that he is not just bored, but wants a better life. This is in part, influenced by his obsession with the girls. When the girls are checking out he fantasizes of their life:
All of a sudden

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