A&P, by John Updike

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The first line of the story, “A&P, by John Updike, “In walks three girls in nothing but bathing suits”; (230) sets the tone for the rest of the story. The remainder of the story is a description of how the main character Sammy, views not only the three girls in the bathing suits , but the rest of the women that are portrayed in the story. The main character of the story is a young guy, in the early 1960s, who is working at a grocery store when these three young women walk in. He describes how they were scantily clad and walking around the store, and the reactions of the others in the store, including himself, his co-workers, his manager and other patrons. This story is about how a 19-year-old guy in 1961 perceived and objectified the women, young and old, as a whole.

The first woman Sammy has contact with after observing the three girls, is a customer he describes as “a witch of about fifty years, with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows” (230). She has become impatient with him when he cannot recollect if he rang up her box of crackers, since the three younger girls distracted him. Sammy also says, “If she were born in the right time, they would have burned her over in Salem”, substantiating his characterization of her being a witch. He presumes that this woman’s purpose was to trip him up and get pleasure from it.

Sammy goes on to describe the three young women. The first one he calls the “chunky one” (230), whom he describes as having a “sweet broad soft looking can” (230), in reference to her backside. He also adds, “With two crescents of white under it where the sun never shines” (230), showing that he is really gawking at her backside. The second, he describes as the “tall one, with black hair that had not quite frizzled right, with a chin that was too long” (230) - the kind that other girls think is very “striking” (230) and “attractive” (230). The third, he described as the “queen” (230). She is the one he considers to be the most attractive of the girls, and the leader of the group. When she pulled out her money to pay for her purchase, Sammy talked about how he slowly un-creased the bill. It was retrieved from what he described as the “nicest two scoops of vanilla he has ever seen” (230); making reference to the queen’s breasts.

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