A & P - John Updike

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Sammy vs. the Grocery Store

In the story, “A & P”, John Updike differentiates the views of Sammy and the store with many eye-catching techniques. By presenting the store as the antagonist, the reader gains Sammy sense of view about things through his close detail and humor of situations. Well before the dramatic opportunity presents itself for Sammy to quit his job, his narrative voice has established his individualism, imagination and his subversive sense of humor that already set him at odds with his jobs dull routine.
The three girls entering the store in bathing suits and “walking against the usual traffic” coming down the aisle symbolize Sammy’s individualism. Because of the girl’s different appearance from the usual shoppers in A & P, Sammy couldn’t help but stare. This type of dress was not part of the “A & P policy” especially since “the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street”.
An example of Sammy’s imagination is exemplified through his description of the other shoppers in A & P. Sammy refers to the shoppers as “sheep” twice in the story. Once as he views the customers continuing to push their carts down the aisle only glancing slightly at the girls and continuing to shop. Sammy “bets you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering…” The second time is when the girls go to the check out lane and Lengel starts to explain the policy. “All this while, the customers had been showing up with their carts but, you know sheep, seeing a scene, they had all bunched up on Stokesie…”
Sammy’s narration of the lady at the front counter presents an example of his defiant sense of humor. The phrases “a witch about fifty” and “if she’d been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem” demonstrates the intolerance Sammy has developed toward the “A & P policy”.
The song Sammy hears by the register as he rings up a purchase represents his oddity from his jobs dull routine.

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