Does Sammy undergo essential change?
John Updike’s fictional account “A & P” is a story of a 19-year-old teenager, Sammy, who impulsively quits his job in a grocery due to three girls in bathing suits. We, as listeners of his plight situation, may want to consider if Sammy learns something fundamental about himself as he justifies his indignant—yet presumptuous—actions that caused him to quit. The story begins as Sammy, a cashier in A & P, encounters three attractive ladies walk in a leisurely gait in midst of the store. Sammy checks them out and describes their appearances in detail. The most appealing one, whom he names “Queenie,” becomes the very source of eroticism in his dreary life.
Sammy is immediately seduced by the physical exposure of the girls from the beginning. His shallowness is well demonstrated as he values and fantasizes the girls over their bodily features.
There was this chunky one, with the two-piece—it was bright green and the seams of the bra were still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale so I guessed she just got it (the suit)—there was this one, with one of those chubby berry-faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose. . . and a tall one. . . the kind of girl other girls think is very “striking” and “attractive” but never quite makes it, as they very well know, which is why they like her so much. . . (285).
Sammy then discovers the girl of his dream. By her looks and the way she leads others, he calls her the “queen” and puts her in his paramount interest: “She was the queen. She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn’t look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima-donna legs. . .” (285).
Sammy interprets the “queen’s” movements which give him such pleasurable sensation. His unbelievably realistic, even comical, delineation of the girl continues as he realizes her “straps were down,” and how there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light (285-286).
By now, Sammy’s visual imagery about her is so ardent and aesthetic like that of an artist painting a goddess.