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A&P by John Updike Essay


In his short story A&P, John Updike describes the experiences of a teenage clerk, named Sammy who works in the grocery store. The author focuses on this person’s attitude toward other people, his view of sexuality, and his values. One can say that the protagonist is an individual who wishes to be singled out among other people many of whom he despises.

Moreover, he thinks that he can easily understand the inner world of others. Nevertheless, Sammy’s narrative reveals that he wants to be noticed by the girls who visit the store. Moreover, the protagonist eventually realizes that many of his views can be explained by prejudices or ignorance. Furthermore, his perception of girls can be regarded as a sign of his own vulnerability or even sense of inferiority. This is one of the main arguments that can be put forward. This paper is aimed at describing the behavior of this person in greater detail.

The protagonist can be described as an experienced girl-watcher who pays close attention to women who enter the shop. One can say that he is regularly engaged in this activity. The descriptions that he provides indicate that the main character is accustomed to evaluating or even classifying girls. The narrator focuses on physical appearance, clothes, and behavior traits.

For instance, when three girls dressed only in bathing suits, he immediately describes one of them as “Queenie” (Updike 357). Furthermore, he uses the language which is supposed to show that he is interested mostly in the physical appearance of these girls. This is why Sammy applies such an epithet as “prima donna legs” while describing a girl who he likes (Updike 357). This is why one can say that Sammie is an experienced girl-watcher.

Apart from that, the main character makes conjectures about the inner world of the visitors. Moreover, he attempts to understand the feelings and emotions of the girl described as Queenie. However, he does not have the courage to speak to her. This lack of confidence is probably the main character trait of Sammy. This is one of the main details that should be taken into account.

At the beginning, the protagonist wants to show that he is superior to other people who visit A&P. This is why he can label them as “houseslaves” or “sheep” (Updike 357). To some degree, this attitude toward other people can be viewed as a sign of Sammy’s frustration with his own life which is spent in the grocery store A&P.

Furthermore, some of the comments suggest that that he cannot understand the behavior of girls. For instance, he compares a girl’s mind to “a bee in a glass jar” (Updike 357). To a great extent, this comparison shows that Sammy has not had many contacts with girls since he cannot predict their intentions or feelings. Moreover, Sammy does not want to show that he is profoundly affected by girls’ beauty.

Nevertheless, his narratives reveal that it is not quite true. This is why she mentions that the girl named Queenie must have noticed him “in the corner of her eye” (Updike 357). Furthermore, he is glad that this girl chooses his checkpoint among others. So, his cynicism can only be seen as the pretence. This is one of the aspects that can be identified. It is critical for understanding the behavior of this person.

Furthermore, Sammy’s actions suggest that he desperately wants to produce an impression on the girls. For instance, when Lengel, who is one of the managers at A&P, reproaches girls for entering the shop only in the bathing suits, Sammy disagrees with this decision. Moreover, the main character quits his job at this supermarket because he believes that Lengel humiliated the girls.

In this way, he wants to attract Queenie’s attention. However, his hopes are disappointed because girls leave without noticing Sammy. Moreover, his conflict with Langer is only driven by his unwillingness to admit that his presence went unnoticed by Queenie. This is one of the main issues that can be singled out.

These examples suggest that Sammy uses his cynicism as a shield. This attitude toward other people makes him less vulnerable. His contemptuous perception of other people enables him forget his own frustration or lack of courage. This is one of the main points that can be made. This issue is vital for understanding the motives underlying his actions or attitude toward others.

On the whole, this short story is important for depicting the experiences of a person who desperately wishes to break away from the daily routine. Additionally, he wishes to raise his self-esteem by making cynical comments about other people. Girl-watching is one of Sammy’s favorite pastimes because in this way, he can forget about his inferiority complex. The fact that Sammy quits his job can be seen as his intention to show that he can distinguish himself among others. This decision can be seen as a protest against the daily routine of his life.

Works Cited

Updike, John. “A&P” Literature: A World of Writing Stories, Poems, Plays and Essays. Ed. David Pike and Ana Acosta. New York: Pearson Education, 2012. 356-360. Print.

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