The Power of Desire
From the moment the girls walk into the A&P, they attract the gaze of every man in the store, which demonstrates the power their sexuality gives them over the opposite sex. Although they make a point of acting nonchalant (Queenie more successfully than the other two), the girls are well aware of the eyes tracking their every move. As long as the girls do not acknowledge the men’s interest, they are in a position of power—inspiring desire but not subject to it. Their strategy works well, and the A&P’s male employees—even the unyielding Lengel—show some degree of sexual interest. However, Lengel ultimately undermines this strategy and tries to lessen their power. By confronting the girls so bluntly, Lengel calls the girls on their behavior, embarrassing them by suggesting that they are well aware of the inappropriateness of their attire. Queenie’s claim—“We are decent”—is an attempt to reestablish their superior position, implying that it is Lengel who is being inappropriate.
The girls have a profound transformative effect on the men in the A&P, especially Sammy. They inspire the men to act piggishly, as they stare at the girls while making lewd comments to one another. For these men, their response seems rooted in hormones, and Lengel’s attempt to get the girls to respect social norms is an effort both to control the desire of such young men and to protect the girls from it. In Sammy, however, the girls inspire a more profound reaction. Under the influence of his desire for Queenie, Sammy’s imagination is awakened, and he takes a dramatic step to change his life. Sammy’s actions are not purely motivated by his desire, but they are inseparable from it.
The Mystery of Other Minds
Throughout the story, Sammy exhibits prowess in both observing others and gleaning insights from those observations, but the girls suggest to him the true mystery of other minds. When a customer reprimands Sammy for a mistake, Sammy...
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