Point of View This story is written entirely from the perspective of nineteen year old Sammy, a grocery clerk. Updike has created an atmosphere of striking opposites warring with one another throughout the entire story. Sammy is bored and excited at the same time. He has worked in the A&P long enough to have memorized every item that is sold in the aisle directly in front of his cash register as well as what is generally for sale in all the areas of the store. He has worked so long at this store that he even compares food items to the bodies of the young girls in bathing suits.
Sammy didn't notice the three girls until they were near the bread and he begins comparing the thighs of the first girl he saw to crescents of white. The first contrast comes almost immediately as he is brought back to the task at hand which is waiting on a fifty-year-old woman, with whom he is irritated for causing him to stop looking at the girls.
He blames her for his own mistake of ringing up her purchase twice, but realizes he must pay attention to his job as he stated, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦I got her feathers smoothedÃ¢ÂÂ¦" Updike goes into great detail to contrast the young girls with the fifty-year-old woman. He describes the older woman as having rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows. The young girls are all given nubile qualities, which are described by the character of Sammy using references to food. The first girl to catch his eye is a chunky girl with a sweet can and two crescents of white just underneath it. The second girl is described as having a chubby berry face with her lips all bunched together under her nose. The third girl doesn't get compared to food until she is at the cash register and is obviously the most attractive to Sammy as he describes her as having prima-donna legs.
Sammy has been saved from his normal mundane work day assisting what he calls, "houseslaves" by the appearance of these three girls wearing nothing but bathing suits. He is further astonished that they are barefoot, which is entirely against all social mores of the time. He admires the boldness of the girls, especially the one with the prima-donna legs, who he calls queenie.
The second opposite occurs after Sammy has admired every visible square inch of the girls bodies, however, he feels sad for the girls when old Mr. McMahon form the meat department began blowing them kisses while staring after them as they left his area. In Sammy's mind it is okay for him to look to his hearts content, but it is out of line for an old man to look.
The girls chose to use Sammy's checkout line and he felt lucky to have been chosen. This seems to be the only reason that Sammy quit his job. He felt attached to the girls, and when the store manager chastised them for being half naked in his store, Sammy felt obligated to stand up for them the only way he knew how, he quit his job. He describes his exit from the store as a saunter, into the electric eye.
It wasn't until he had been left behind that he realized he had crossed a line of some kind. He felt his own power to make a stand. He had crossed the line between a young man and a man. He realized too late however, that the rewards were not worth the price he had paid. I am sure he still had visions of the girls at the beach sitting on lawn chairs laughing with their families, until he noticed the lawn chairs stacked on the pavement outside the store. He realized that life would be full of hard choices from that time forward.