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“A & P” by John Updike

“A & P” by John Updike is a story about a young and juvenile boy, Sammy, enduring the phase of crossing adolescent to become a man, still not ripe enough to understand the stark world, swept away by the splendor of a rich and a haughty girl, ultimately winding up without a job. Sammy is an eighteen year old teenager who works in an A & P supermarket, in a town north of Boston. It is a fine summer Thursday afternoon and Sammy is leisurely waiting by his check out counter to bill customers strolling in the supermarket shopping for groceries and other provisions.

Beside him is his co worker, in the next counter, Stokes, an average Joe, who is twenty two and married with two children and hopes to become a Manager someday which Sammy ridicules in his own flair. When the atmosphere is dull in the store, with married ladies and their troublesome kids roaming around looking for their regular stuff, mood transforms suddenly with the entry of a flock of young girls, three in number, surprisingly wearing just bathing suits. Instantly Sammy is attracted towards them and is totally overwhelmed by the leading lady among the three, whom he refers to as the Queen.

The first among the three is a chunky girl and the second he sees as too tall. But the third, the Queen, is a bit shorter but walks holding her head high above. She has the straps of her top down, and is stunningly exposing her bare and pale white skin for all eyes. To Sammy, she seems bigheaded and dominant over the other two girls. They stroll across the supermarket, crossing one lane to another, while all eyes still studded on them, and finally end up in Sammy’s checkout counter to bill just one item they picked up, a Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream.

As Sammy starts the billing for the Herring snack, Lengel, the tough and austere store manager walks in. He watches the girls standing in their bathing suits and austerely speaks to them, criticizing their outfits and remarks them to be indecently dressed. As the chunky girl argues back, he dismisses them by saying that the next time they walk into A& P, they should be decently dressed up as per the store policies. Sammy thinks of Lengel as a conservative and boring person trying to impose his thoughts on someone else, without being gentle towards their feelings.

He considers his act towards the pretty girl as brutal and insensitive. On Lengel’s command, Sammy winds up their purchase and as the girls move towards the exit of the store, Sammy makes an effort to show his bravery to the lady. He tells Lengel that he quits his job, right before the girls walked out, soon enough for them to hear his words. Lengel tries to remind Sammy of how his parents would feel after knowing of his heedless act but Sammy doesn’t bother, since he thinks that once he started something, he has to finish it.

As Sammy walks out of the store to catch the girls, for whom he quit his job, he finds they are nowhere to be seen. Sammy realizes that the girls are gone, Lengel is busy billing other customers and he is now left, on his own. Sammy is more or less an ordinary teenage boy on the wink of adulthood, trying to find a place for himself in the cool hearts. He is impulsive and is quickly intimidated by a good looking girl. He seems to be irritated by the regular boring women customers and gives criticizing reviews on every person. He doesn’t think twice before he quits his job and this action shows his disregard towards the gravity of life.

He tries to impress the attractive girl, who doesn’t bother to take notice of him, by taking her side, and talking against the store manager, who is an old family friend and caring towards Sammy’s prospect. Only when the girls ignore his act of heroism and leave the supermarket without even caring to thank him or show any sign of recognition, does he realize the mistake he has made. He learns an important lesson of life with the whole incident and regrets his hasty decision that left him in despair and nowhere to go. Works Cited “An Analysis of John Updike’s A&P. ” 123HelpMe. com. 23 Feb 2009 <http://www. 123HelpMe. com/view. asp? id=5853>

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