A&P by John Updike

Topics: Short story, John Updike, John Cheever Pages: 6 (1117 words) Published: March 24, 2009
“A&P:”by John Updike Evaluation of Sammy’s Persona

In the short story “A&P”, by John Updike, the main character Sammy, is an Eighteen year old boy from a small town outside of Boston who works at an A& P market.

Sammy is an average boy who seems a tad tired of the regular customers who come into his

store. Updike shows how Sammy lets his self assurance, emotions, and anger get a little too far

ahead of him.

Sammy seems like an average boy with high value of self-assurance who seems a tad bit

tired of the regular customers who come into his store. His certainty becomes visible when he

describes these regular customers as: older married women, an overweight lady who has no

regrets wearing her swimsuit that doesn’t quite cover; and the nit picking old ladies who spend

years trying to catch an error by a cashier. He refers to these regulars as “sheep”, as they seem

to follow one and other in their actions and reactions.”He scorns at an older woman well past

her prime and referring to her as a witch”(123).Both of these statements indicates that he is

self assured and thinks highly of himself. Putting others down and calling them names

demonstrates he looks down upon others, and displays his sense of certainty.

Sammy’s emotions are made known when his attention is captured by customers who

have just walked in. Sammy finds himself fascinated by a particular group of girls. Just in

from the beach, and still in their swimsuits, they are a stark contrast to the otherwise

plain store interior. They have the whole market looking at them, some in good ways

and others in bad. Sammy makes a comment to his fellow cashier Stokesie, “Do you

really think there is a mind in there or just a little buzz , like a bee in a jar?”(240)He idealizes

and ogles the prettiest of the three. He names her, to himself, “Queenie”; and jokes with

his fellow cashier about the girl’s sexiness. “Queenie becomes the central focus of Sammy’s

attention as he collects and provides details like the exact shade of her hair color”(237). Sammy

changes his focus towards the three girls and critiques them in his head as he watches them

shop around the store. Entranced by her beauty, Sammy feels blessed when she and her pack

enter his line, as he begins to ring up her can of herring snacks. “He envisions himself as their

“unsuspecting hero “he still refers to Queenies breasts as “scoops of vanilla ice cream”(240). As

Queenie reaches into the center of her bikini to remove the dollar bill to pay for the snack; up walks Lengel and this is what triggers Sammy to make his drastic move. Sammy’s anger emerges when he is approached by Lengel .Lengel is Sammy’s uptight,

dreary manger who seems to always be looking for something wrong.. Lengel quickly notices

the revealing outfits of the three girls and begins to walk over and confront Queenie. He begins

to harass and embarrass her and her friends about the attire. After being confronted, Queenie

begins to blush and Sammy feels ashamed of Lengel and his shrew mentality towards them.

Now was the time Sammy was to make his move; whether it be his hope to catch the attention

of such a beauty or maybe it was his anger towards Lengel for ruining his moment with such a

beautiful young lady. “It seems to me that once you begin a gesture it is fatal not to go through

with it”(118) Not surprised at the girls attempt to quickly speed out the door, Sammy quickly

hollers “I quit!” The girls had heard him, but that was it. “How foolish this hope is in realistic

terms becomes clear when he finds the parking lot empty and himself without a job.”(218)They

continued to walk across the parking lot; it was just Sammy and Lengel now. His plan was a

bust, he wanted to be portrayed as a knight and shining armor with pure nobility; showing the

girl of his cashier fantasies that he was sticking up...

Cited: Thompson, Corey Evan. “Updike’s ‘A&P’.” The Explicator (2001)
Updike, John “A&P.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction Poetry and Drama (1985)
John Updike, “A&P,” Irony and Innocence: Studies of Short Fiction. Dressner, Lawrence
Jay ( Berkley U of California1978) 55
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