Sammy’s Struggle in John Updike’s “A&P”
In John Updike’s short story “A&P,” it is clear that the main character Sammy does a lot of day dreaming. He appears to be an extremely observant young man, right down to the brand name of the food that the young girls are buying in the store. He imagines the role each girl plays in their circle of friends and he thinks about their home lives. He can never seem to shut his mind off, leaving him time to not only thinking about silly trivial things, but also about his life and where he is at. Although Sammy seems to quit his job at the supermarket simply because he is standing up for the girls, it really is because he is unhappy in his own life. In the very beginning of the story, Sammy tells of how an older woman comes to his checkout line. He refers to her as “one of those cash-register-watchers,” assuming that she’s been practicing this profession of intently waiting for cashiers to slip up all of her life (230). When the three girls walk in, he becomes distracted and is unaware if he rang up one of the lady’s items already. When the customer gets angry that he rang it up twice, he is so quick to jump to conclusions, saying “…I know it made her day to trip me up” (230). The woman could have just been having a bad day, or maybe she was actually just mad that Sammy had messed up because he was focused on something else. Either way, she has the right to be upset. 2Sammy has a very negative attitude about his life and situation, and therefore has a negative attitude towards others. Maybe the woman is going through something similar to Sammy. He never even gives that a thought and doesn’t sympathize with her at all.
A lot of times when people are unhappy with themselves, they take it out on others. Sammy displays this so blatantly in painting a picture of the girls that come into the supermarket. He devotes five paragraphs strictly to talking about them and every move they make. He spares no detail, describing one of the...
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