The essay was widely considered a statement of " the death of the novel ", [ citation needed ] (compare with Roland Barthes 's "The Death of the Author"). Barth has since insisted that he was merely making clear that a particular stage in history was passing, and pointing to possible directions from there. He later (1980) wrote a follow-up essay, "The Literature of Replenishment", to clarify the point.
O'Hara died from cardiovascular disease in Princeton, New Jersey, and is interred in the Princeton Cemetery . The epitaph on his tombstone, which he wrote himself, reads: "Better than anyone else, he told the truth about his time. He was a professional. He wrote honestly and well." Of this, Gill commented: "From the far side of the grave, he remains self-defensive and overbearing. Better than anyone else? Not merely better than any other writer of fiction but better than any dramatist, any poet, any biographer, any historian? It is an astonishing claim."
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From the thoughts and actions of Sammy, it is easy to determine this central idea. Sammy becomes enamored with the girls, and Lengel's admonishing upset him. In his mind, the girls were making a statement of beauty, and existed on a higher plane, free of the codes of the average grocery shopper. He resigns in an attempt to defend their honor, but recognizes his folly when they leave without giving him so much as a glance. By his own admission, his action would make things difficult in the times ahead. It is clear Sammy understands his mistake, and will not act so foolishly again.
Walking out of the A & P, Sammy was at terms with his bad decision. Soon to leave the teenage years, he was already maturing and as Updike points out, without making mistakes one cannot mature.
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Total number of pages of Ben Turnbull saying things like “I want women to be dirty” and “We are condemned, men and women, to symbiosis” and “She was a choice cut of meat and I hoped she held out for a fair price” and “The sexual parts are fiends, sacrificing everything to that aching point of contact”: .
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The upshot was a self-indulgent religion that basked in self-affirmation while running from voices that would challenge the self to change, particularly in ways that were not pleasant. It is telling that Updike’s last poem ends with words of self-assurance from Psalm 23: “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, forever.”