Feb. 12, 2013
The Standard Of Convention
In Updikes short story “A & P”; Sammy is a nineteen-year-old boy working at a local supermarket, when he is confronted with a distraction of the three girls freshly off the beach “in nothing but bathing suits” (Updike 16). As he reveals minute details about the girls’ appearances and the way they carry themselves, he begins to speculate about their personalities. While Sammy leans on his register waiting for the arrival of the girls in his slot, he starts to comment on the conformity of the customers in the store. He also admits that his co-worker, Stokesie, who is twenty-two and married, has surrendered to a life working at the supermarket. When the girls approach Sammy’s slot, the policy-biding manager, Lengel, confronts the girls due to their indecent exposure. Sammy is affected by the embarrassment his manger has caused the girls and quits his job. The three girls are a catalyst that propels him out of convention.
The girls are a distraction from the lawful life at A & P. Although the town is just five miles from the beach, Sammy is usually surrounded by a school of “woman with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs” (18), but these girls “with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can” snagged his attention. The leader of them, deemed Queenie, was the most arousing to him. Updike uses specific details to bring sensual allurement to these young girls and to prove how unwelcome their presence is in the store. He notes the customers are not pleased, “when Queenie’s white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed” (17-18). This was a break for Sammy from the habitual fish swimming around the A & P. The girls also symbolized an escape from the monotonous daily ritual of the life working at the supermarket. Updike refers to Sammy’s co-worker, Stokesie, to...