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Coming of Age: Choice of Transition and Everlasting Infantilism

Coming of age stories have been prominent in many literary works. Aging and crossing a line between being a child and moving into adulthood is a topic that every single person can relate to. However, growing up is different for everyone and depends on their gender, socioeconomic, and cultural background. For instance, the short stories “A&P” by John Updike and “Doe Season” by David Kaplan share a similar narrative where the main characters make the first step towards growing up. “A&P” does that through showcasing newly gained responsibilities, while “Doe Season” presents a similar portrayal of a girl that comes to terms with her gender and what it entails for her in the future. A poem by Leigh Hunt, “Jenny Kiss’d Me” and Jane Martin’s play Beauty illustrates already mature characters that experience the hardship of infantile decisions in older age. Although the aforementioned works of literature explore coming of age differently, they all arrive at the unified conclusion that becoming an adult is a constant transition that is determined by a personal realization and choice.

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First of all, “A&P” and “Doe Season” portray the decisions that mature a person from two different perspectives: financial and social. As for “A&P,” the main character during his regular shift at a retail job decides to stand up for the younger girls and defend their supposedly inappropriate behavior from his manager. Sammy realizes that “once you begin a gesture, it’s fatal not to go through with it” (Updike 165). Regardless of how brave the action is, the main character now has to face the real consequences of being fired. This decision urges him to enter adulthood as he is not financially dependent on his parents. Unlike the girls he defended, he has no excuse since he is not an adolescent anymore.

Similarly, Andy from “Doe Season” has to face a life-changing realization about social roles that urges her to mature. The understanding of the difference between genderless childhood and gender-based adulthood leaves her no other option but to grow. Once she shoots a deer, which is a metaphorical representation of her lost adolescence, she rejects her ingenuous nature, “Crying Andy, Andy (but that wasn’t her name, she would no longer be called that)” (Kaplan 408). By refusing to be called by her “male” name, she accepts a role of an adult woman. Given how these two short stories explore the sudden realization of growing up, both make a statement that aging comes with discovery and a transition process. For Sammy, it was financial responsibility, for Andy – an acceptance of her feminine role.

In their turn, Beauty and “Jenny Kiss’d Me” provide an example of how crucially important choices between being infantile and mature need to be done even in adulthood. Childish nature among grown-ups is clearly shown in an argument between Carla and Bethany in Beauty. Carla naively wants her friend’s beauty, but when she finally exchanges her intelligence for a pleasant appearance, she says, “I wanted to be beautiful, but I did not want to be you” (Martin 836). At that moment, the character realizes how juvenile it was to wish for something without taking responsibility for the consequences. Furthermore, “Jenny Kiss’d Me” reflects on some challenges that an adult has to experience. Hunt stresses that maturity makes a person savor every moment and writes, “Time, you thief!” (72). He explains that he has to decide what childish moments he wants to remember, and that choice makes him an adult. Overall, both literary pieces show how the dilemma of choice and ingenuousness is experienced even by older people.

Overall, all four works of literature show different elements of maturity and how it is determined by personal choices. “A&P” explores how a person realizes one’s independence by taking responsibility for their actions. Furthermore, “Doe Season” adds to that argument by illustrating the case of Andrea that chooses femininity over genderless adolescence. However, a single transitional decision does not determine one’s mindset once and forever. As seen in Beauty and “Jenny Kiss’d Me,” a dilemma between infantilism and wisdom exists even in adulthood.

Works Cited

Hunt, Leigh. “Jenny Kiss’d Me.” Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, 9th ed., edited by Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell, Cengage Learning, 2016, p. 72.

Kaplan, David. “Doe Season.” Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, 9th ed., edited by Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell, Cengage Learning, 2016, pp. 395–408.

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Martin, Jane. Beauty. Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, 9th ed., edited by Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell, Cengage Learning, 2016, pp. 832-836.

Updike, John. “A&P.” Portable Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, 9th ed., edited by Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell, Cengage Learning, 2016, pp. 161–165.

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