An Analysis of a&P

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John Updike’s “A & P” offers a first person narrative of a young supermarket employee in a typical blue collar town. Sammy tells us a story about the events and observations that lead up to eventually quitting his job. The narration is immediate in tone and feels as if you are in the middle of a conversation with Sammy himself. Within the text we are offered Sammy’s thoughts of social class, disdain for town-folk, and his perceived need to achieve a higher station in life. Sammy’s dreams and beliefs are immature in nature; his thinking that one’s success is defined by money, prestige, and social class is flawed. The interactions Sammy has during this one day at the A&P give the reader insights into Updike’s thoughts on freedom, changes, and growth in a young man’s life. Updike uses Sammy’s experiences to illustrate the moment of maturity that occurs when a world view changes from a self-gratifying perspective to a chivalric, protective adult perception, while clearly proving that heroic gestures are not as simple as one may wish for. “A & P” seems like a simple story about adolescent sexual desires, but beneath the obvious layer of superficiality, Sammy finds freedom in the various expressions of beauty. Sammy, the protagonist of the story, is working at his common job, with common co-workers, at a decidedly common store. While tending his duties of ringing up items for “cash-register-watchers” (Updike 955) he notices three bikini clad girls in the bread aisle. After dismissing the first two as pudgy and unattractive, he focuses his attention on “Queenie,” the presumed leader of the pack. He notices the details of her bare feet and bikini “with the straps pushed off,” and “nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her,” a sight that “was more than pretty” (Updike 956). It’s at this point that we read him objectifying the girls, giving them classical sculpture attributes while pursuing his sexual desires in thought. It is important...
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