Sammy's Narration in Updike's a&P

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In John Updike's "A & P", the main character, Sammy, narrates. Updike's choice to make Sammy's point of view central to the story leads the reader right into Sammy's mind, and the reader sees the activity in the grocery store from adolescent point of view.

At first glance, Sammy's spouts typical teenage male language that appears anti-female. Because the story is told from Sammy's point of view, the reader sees and hears the adolescent opinions/language- Demeaning?? comments about the three girls; calls the customer a witch; comments about the typical shopper: curlers, varicose veins, etc. On the surface, the reader may assume the story paints women in a negative light.

However, Sammy's discussion with the reader about the typical shopper develops into social commentary when he describes customers' behavior that reflects conformity of society- Also, when he talks about Stoksie's life and goals/dreams...When Sammy notices that the three girls walk the opposite direction down the aisles, he realizes that they stand out as nonconformists in a sea of "sheep," the narrative changes as Sammy becomes aware of his part in the conformity and the the reader sees that he does not like it. When the manager speaks rudely to the girls about their lack of clothing, Sammy notices that Lengel punishes them for their nonconformity. In what looks like a typical macho behavior and possible attempt to attract the girls' attention, Sammy quits. However, he has decided not to participate in the conformity of society when he tells Lengel "-----."

Although Updike's story is short, and Sammy's narrative describes a short period of time during one afternoon, the story is a metaphor for the changes that Sammy goes through as he begins to mature into adulthood. When he says, "---," the reader can see Sammy's understanding of the consequences he must face for quitting, and that shows a sign of maturity from the initial narrative that fixates on the girls.

"A & P" reflects...
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