A&P by John Updike - Short Essay

Topics: Short story, John Updike, Social class Pages: 2 (616 words) Published: November 25, 2012
Write a critical commentary on John Updike's "A & P"
John Updike’s “A&P” is written during the early 1960’s in America. The short story is written in a first person narrative of Sammy, who is a young employee at a store. The tone of the story is direct and sounds as if one were partaking in a conversation with Sammy himself. The story, thus, is more personal. The reader follows Sammy’s train of thought as he makes observations of events that happen that lead up to climax of him quitting his job. Sammy can be seen as one who does not stand out, he is lost amongst the masses. He has an ordinary job, with ordinary co-workers at an ordinary store. This is how the middleclass, or working-class, is seen, especially during that time. When Sammy first sees the three girls that walk into the store with their bathing costumes on in the bread aisle, the reader notices how carefully Sammy watches them. He begins his descriptions of the first two girls and dismisses them for the lack of attraction. He then focuses, and seems to be transfixed, on the third girl whom he deems the leader and names her “Queenie”. One immediately notices that Sammy finds a certain freedom in her beauty. The fact that she is barefoot and barely clothed defies the normal code of attire in a shop and so creates a freedom. One could say that he is interested in her for the fact that she does stand out, that she is not seen as ordinary, unlike him.

In a sense, Sammy has a rather immature view of the world. When he hears that “Queenie” has been sent to the shop simply to buy a jar of herring snacks for her mother, Sammy immediately pictures a party of rich and sophisticated people. His idea of social statuses and class distinctions, could be said, are misguided. He has the idea that money can lead to freedom, and so climbing the social ladder helps gain that goal.

When Lengel (the manager) approaches the girls and reproaches “Queenie” for her lack of clothing Sammy immediately feels the need to...
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