The Power of Desire Lit Analysis

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The Power of Desire
Sometimes emotions can get the best of a person and decisions can be made that will later be regretted. In John Updike’s “A & P,” the main character, Sammy, is overwhelmed with feelings the moment a group of girls in bikinis walk into the grocery store he works at. These girls represent more to Sammy than just something to look at, they make him re-evaluate where he stands in life. He looks up to their lifestyle so much, he makes a life changing decision within just a few moments. Emotions always play a key role in life, however the emotion of desire can be very controversial due to the fact that what a person desires isn’t always the best for them. John Updike illustrates the power of desire through the outcome of choices and consequences, along with Sammy’s want for freedom and youth. Perhaps the most recognizable theme in “A & P” is the use of choices and consequences. The main character, Sammy, is a cashier at the local A & P grocery store who is put in a situation that may affect the rest of his life. Lengel, Sammy’s manager, refers to the girls lack of clothing as inappropriate for a grocery store, telling the girls that his store is “not the beach” and they needed to follow the store policy by having their shoulders covered. Sammy feels as though Lengel has disrespected and embarrassed these girls who are red in the face and in a rush to get out of the store. Somewhat aware to the upcoming consequences, Sammy makes a quick and painful decision to quit his job right then and there. Lengel, friends of Sammy’s mother and father, reminds him that he doesn’t want to do this to his parents. Sammy makes it clear that he doesn’t, but he is so caught up how Lengel embarrassed those girls he sticks with his decision and takes off his apron. Lengel tells Sammy, “You’ll feel this for the rest of your life,” (Updike 33). This is where Updike shows that although Sammy is very aware of the consequences, he continues to follow through as he takes off his apron. Sammy’s desire to stick up for the girls overpowers the idea that his choices and actions will have ramifications on his life for a very long time. At the beginning of the story, Sammy is quite clear that he is unlike what he refers to as the “sheep” making their way around the grocery store (Updike 30). He is very confident that he stands apart from all the average people walking around with nothing better to do with their lives. Sammy appears to be very comfortable with his sarcastic attitude to all the customers he surveys throughout his day. However, his confidence is taken aback by the three girls around his age that enter the store wearing nothing but their bathing suits. The simple things the girls do such as going against the flow of traffic in the store, wearing scandalous apparel into a public place, and attracting the attention from nearly every male shows a casual act of rebellion. Their act of deviance is noticed because they are going against the social norm of the community. The attitudes of the girls as they walk around gives an impression as though they enjoy the attention they are getting, and this affects Sammy powerfully. He is used to being sarcastic, but still continues to follow all the rules, whereas these girls simply ignore all rules. Seeing these girls parade their freedom ignites a spark within Sammy. When his manager, Lengel insists they are dressed inappropriately and they should not be allowed in his store, Sammy sees this as offensive to the girls. Perhaps blinded by his want of freedom like the girls, Sammy decides to act heroic and quit his job. The idea of breaking away from his everyday life inside the grocery store full of people he seems to hate greatly appeals to Sammy, making this life-altering decision much easier. Sammy’s actions in quitting his job not only represent his want for freedom, but show his want for his youth as well. The girls being Sammy’s age seems to not only attract Sammy sexually, but...
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