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A And P Research Essay, Research Paper

In his short story, ?gA&P?h, John Updike presents the story through the view of an adolescent boy who is a supermarket checkout clerk of the ?gA&P.?h The boy, Sammy, comes across three strange girls who come to the A&P to shop wearing nothing but bathing suits. This extraordinary happening in his dull everyday existence casts a great influence on the direction of his future.

One learns about Sammy’s station in life through the setting of the story. He is not a great war hero or superstar but a checker at a small town A & P, just north of Boston. He is not moving up in his job or down, simply stagnant. He has to work not of his own will but from his family?fs economic condition. Then he meets the girls of almost his own age and he describes them in detail. The reader can quickly recognize the boy?fs interest in girls, however there is also another feeling inside Sammy. “All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room. Her father and all the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties…When my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it’s a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with ‘They’ll Do It Every time’ cartoons stenciled on.” Sammy’s thoughts give the reader some insight into his feeling that the girls, just like the wealthy summer colony, five miles away from the town, they came from, are out of his reach. Sammy is ready to make a change. The girls provide motivation for Sammy to take the step necessary to make some changes in his life. Therefore, they play the role of mentor by inspiring him.

However the store manager, Lengel, who is also a Sunday school teacher, criticizes the girls, as a matter of course, on their dress. The reader can recognize that Lengel is a conservative person from his roles in society as the manager of the store and the religion teacher. ?gHe had been thinking all these years the A&P was a great dune and he was the head lifeguard.?h For the man who thinks this way, the existence of the girls is nothing but bothersome, he sees them as the kind of people who are against the established society. There is, therefore, a generation gap between the girls and Lengel. Seeing their quarrel, Sammy suddenly tells Lengel that he is quitting his job. The apparent reason for this decision is his attempt to be heroic for the girls and his hope that his action may draw their attention. But his disappointment can be heard in the sentence, ?gI look around for my girls, but they?fre gone, of course.?h However, another reason for his quitting is the notion that his life has to be decided by his own will. Lengel said after the declaration, ?gSammy, you don?ft want to do this to your Mon and Dad.?h The boy has been forced to be patient with his situation in this job because it had been given to him by Lengel, a close friend of his parents. But his present situation at work, surrounded by people who are behind the times (whom his calls ?ghouse slaves?h) is now intolerable to him.

Actually, he is ignored by the wealthy girls and loses his job. However, from the point of his attainment of independence by an act of his will, Sammy, as protagonist is successful in his life initiation. The same is true of his love initiation for the reason that his decision is prompted by his love for the girl.

The style of writing where Updike utilizes observations in the first person efficiently shows the reader Sammy’s position in life and where he really wants to be. And through the characterization of Sammy, Updike employs a simple heroic gesture to teach us that actions have consequences and we are all responsible for our own actions.


Updike, John. ?gA&P.?h Fiction 100. Ed. James H. Pickering. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1998.

1331 – 1335

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