Affirmation of Adulthood in Updike’s A&P
Researching John Updike’s story, "A&P", I found many readers agreed that the main character Sammy is viewed as a hero or martyr for quitting his job at an A&P store in a northern beach town. I did, however, find that critics disagreed on why Sammy quit. Initially it appears that Sammy quits his job to impress girls who were reprimanded for wearing bathing suits in the A&P. Sammy did not ultimately quit his job to be the hero for three girls who happened to walk into this A&P. This is not just a story about a nineteen-year-old guy trying to impress a group of girls by quitting his job, but it is also a story describing in detail the day this nineteen-year-old realizes that sometimes, in the transition from boyhood to adulthood, one must take a stand and ultimately follow through with this affirmation of adulthood.
From the beginning of the story Updike "uses Sammy’s youth and unromantic descriptive powers" to show his immaturity and apparent boyish nature (Uphaus 373). We see this in the opening line of the story: "In walks three girls in nothing but bathing suits" (Updike 1026). Even the voice of Sammy is very "familiar and colloquial" (Uphaus 373). Much of the information that Sammy relays about the three girls is sexually descriptive in a nineteen-year-old boy’s way: "and a sweet broad looking can [rear] with those two crescents of white under it, where the sun never seems to hit" (Updike 1026). It is apparent that Sammy looks at the three girls who happen to walk into the A&P only as objects of lust or possibly boyish desire. Thus, on the surface it is easy to take this story as that of a boy who would do something like quit his job to "impress" these girls. It is even ...
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...omach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter" (Updike 1030). This was the day that Sammy grew up.
Greiner, Donald J. Short Story Criticism. Vol. 13 Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991. 398-399.
Updike, John. "A&P." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.1026-1030.
Uphaus, Suzanne Henning. Short Story Criticism. Vol. 13 Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991. 372-373.
Coffman, Kelly. "A Turning Point." Ode To Friendship & Other Essays. Ed. Connie Bellamy. Virginia Beach, 1997. 190-191.
Hatcher, Nathan. "Sammy’s Motive." Ode To Friendship . Ed. Connie Bellamy. Virginia Beach 1997. 188-189.
Luscher, Robert M. John Updike: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.
Uphaus, Suzanne. John Updike. N Y: Frederick Ungar, 1986.