John Updike's "A&P"

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In John Updike’s short story, A&P the writer takes you on a youths memory that involves the choices and consequences that life can deal to anyone who has not had time to test a rash decision. The narrator is an immature nineteen-year-old cashier who is about to make a giant leap from adolescence to manhood. Sammy narrates with opinions of not only his life, but also the people in the town. Sammy opposes with the way these people live their lives, and is determined to set a different course for his future. The author uses characterization, symbolism, and setting to explain Sammy's life issues such as decision-making, result of action, and responsibility. The story illustrates that part of growing up is about making choices and a willingness to accept consequences of one’s own choices.

The story begins as if it is any mundane workday at the A&P. Sammy is a typical teen, making sarcastic comparisons of the customers in the grocery store. He calls one of his customers a "witch" and says the other customers are "house slaves" and "sheep." Sammy obviously dislikes the job, but finds ways of passing the day. However, from the moment the three girls enter the A&P to their exit from the store, you can see dramatic changes in Sammy. Sammy lusts for the young girls, and nicknames the most attractive to him as “Queenie”. The young girls dressed in bathing suits fascinate him, and although he is staring at them excessively, he negatively comments on the others for doing the same. As the girls walk past the older employee, McMahon, Sammy notices how he ogled the girls and pats his mouth. Sammy appears disgusted by his gesture and begins to sympathize for the girls. “Poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn’t help it" (Upd...

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...n behavior, and he in turn would earn the love or acceptance of one of the girls. When in actuality, the girls walked on, the irony is that he resigned for their approval, and they had already walked on and did not witness the resignation.

Updike uses the experiences of teenagers to say how choices can affect our lives and the consequences that follow. When Sammy decides to quit his job, he is making the choice to be an individual and venture into the unknown. He does not want to be married with children at a young age like Stokesie, nor be as rigid as the manager, Mr.Lengel. The story ends with the sentence “I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (Updike 102) which means Sammy is no longer a carefree teen, but a man who now has to accept that his rash choice to quit came with a result.

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