John Updike's A&P


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John Updike’s “A&P” is a short story about a nineteen year old boy during the 1960’s that has a summer job at the local A&P grocery. The main character in the story, Sammy, realizes that life isn’t always fair and that sometimes a person makes decisions that he will regret. Sammy sees that life doesn’t always go as planned when three young girls in bathing suits walk in and his manager Lengel gives them a hard time, and he comes to term with that sometimes you make bad decisions.
Sammy is astounded by three young girls that walk into his store in their bathing suits. He follows their every move as they peruse over the cookies and other goods. The first thing this typical nineteen boy recognizes is the one girl’s “can”. But then he goes on to say that this girl is one that other girls seems to think has potential but never really makes it with the guys. One girl though especially catches his eye. He starts to call her “Queenie” because of the way she carries herself and that she seems to be the leader of the pack. Sammy does nothing but watch her every move as they parade about the store. He even daydreams about going into her house with her rich family at a cocktail party. He notices everything about her and thinks there was nothing cuter than the way she pulls the money out of her top. His immature infatuation with this girl is one of the reasons Sammy makes the hasty decision to quit in the end.
Lengel, the manager of the store, spots the girls and gives them a hard time about their dress in the store. He tells them, “Girls, this isn’t the beach.” He says that they are not dressed appropriately to come into this grocery store. Lengel’s words cause Queenie to get embarrassed and start to blush. Sammy cannot believe this and gets frustrated at his boss. He doesn’t believe that it is right to prosecute these innocent girls for the way they are dressed. He also states at this point that the sheep are piling up over in Stokesie line trying to avoid all the commotion the scene has caused. I believe Sammy takes this as the last straw in a long string of aggravations.
Sammy confronts Lengel and tells him that he didn’t have to embarrass them like that, but it does no good.

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Sammy has already committed to what he is going to do whether he really wanted to or not. He then takes off his apron with his name stitched on it and walks into the electric eye and out into the parking lot. He looks around for the girls, but they are already gone. I think Sammy knew that they were going to be gone, but he stated that “Once you begin a gesture, it’s fatal not to go through with it.”
In conclusion, Sammy quits his job over the mistreatment of three young girls, and realizes sometimes he will make decisions that he will regret. He feels that the world is going to be a really a rough place from here on out.



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