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John Updike's A&P Essay

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Winners Sometimes Quit

Try and remember what it was like to be a teenager. The short story “A&P” tells the coming of age story of a nineteen year old boy named Sammy. Sammy has unknowingly placed himself into a situation that many small town adolescents often fall victim to. Sammy has a dead end job, and he feels as though he will be stuck working at the local “A&P” while life passes him by. This is until a chance encounter with three young female customers changes his course from mini vans and diapers to a welcomed new and uncertain future. After a close examination of the text, Sammy doesn’t quit his job because of the girls, he quits knowing that a dead end job is not what he is meant for.
Sammy is a normal teenage boy in many aspects, loves girls, is kind of a dreamer with a very vivid imagination, and is very defiant when it comes to authority. But in many ways Sammy is not the typical small town teen. Sammy is mature enough to understand the reality of his surroundings. The way he talks about the patrons shopping in his store are the thoughts of someone with a firm grip on how the world really works. Sammy talks about one shopper that is moving through his line, “She’s one of these cash-register-watchers, .....She’d been watching cash registers for fifty years and probably never seen a mistake before”. (Updike, 16) Those are not the words of someone that is happy with their job, having to constantly deal with over barring customers like her. He despises them so much that he refers to them as sheep. Following the crowd is not what Sammy is about.
Sammy makes it blatantly obvious that he is not very experienced with the opposite sex. Even though his descriptions of the girls are very creative, but not too bold, he seems to have at least one misconception about girls. Sammy offers this comment “You never know for sure how girls’ minds work; do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?”(16) This just proves he has never been in a close relationship with a female.
Sammy has an amazing eye for detail and no matter how taboo the subject, he manages to get his point across without seeming too offensive. When speaking of the three young women, he takes on the task of describing each girl in great detail and even manages to slip in which one he prefers. Sammy utters “She was the Queen.”(16) A small amount o...


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...itionally held by society. People that do this usually have a lot of trouble in life and the narrator recognizes this in the story's closing line. He accepts that and obviously he feels that going through the type of trouble quitting his job and making this decision will cause him are preferable to the alternative, which is to accept the rules and expectations of society, which he doesn't like.” (Rex 1) This statement is completely incorrect. Sammy is the essence of what makes this country great. He’s not rejecting society or religion, he is striving to be independent and be apart of society on his own terms. Sammy is looking for who he is, and anything worth having is worth fighting for. Sammy doesn’t quit his job to impress some girls, he quits to stop depending on others and find is own path trough life.





































Works Cited

Rex, Terry. Rev. of “A&P” John Updike. 2001. 25 March 2005.      http://quinnell.us/literature/reviews/story2.html

Updike, John. “A&P” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed X.J.      Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2005. 15-21.


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