Social Class in A & P by John Updike


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In the story, “A&P” by John Updike, the student identifies the differences of social classes between Sammy, a checkout clerk and Queenie, a wealthy girl that visit’s the store. Though not from the same class structure, Sammy is compelled to interact with the girl, however fails in doing so because she is considered privileged.
As the student begins his essay, he points out that Sammy is part of the lower class structure. He is an “eighteen-year-old boy who is working as a checkout clerk in an A&P in a small New England town five miles from the beach” (2191). While working an afternoon shift on Thursday, he notices “these girls in nothing but bathing suits” (2191) enter the store. It is in this scene that the student begins to identify the differences between the group of girls and Sammy.
As the student develops his essay, Sammy begins to compare the girls to other customers in the store. From “houseslaves in pin curlers” to “an old party in baggy gray pants” (2192 ), Sammy negatively characterizes customers in contrast to the leader of the girls, Queenie. To Sammy, the girl is someone that is not from their town. She is everything that every girl envies and wants to be. In contrast to Sammy, she will spend her summer vacationing while he spends it working. It is clear to Sammy that their worlds are different, however it is also obvious that he would like to explore hers.
The story unfolds when, “Lengel, the store’s manager” (2191) confronts the girls because they are dressed inappropriately. To Sammy, it is a moment of embarrassment and in defiance he quits his job. The student suggests that in quitting, “Sammy challenges social inequality and is a person who is trying to

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123helpme.com/search.asp?text=reach+out">reach out towards something bigger and better” (2195). However, unlike Queenie, Sammy’s act of defiance will have long-term consequences. “In Sammy’s small town everyone will find out what he has done, and he may be known… as a quitter” (2195). Needless to say, he understands the consequences and accepts them. In his moment of glory, Sammy gains an understanding between Queenie and himself. He knows they are from different social classes and realizes the inequality that surrounds him.


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