A Commentary on "A&P" by JOHN UPDIKE MAHROKH ALIPANAHLOU By the first reading of A&P, I thought the author was criticizing the immorality and aimlessness of the new generation of that time. But after the class discussions and analyses of the story, I reached the conclusion that the author attempted to show the innocence of the generation and the fact that they were seeking their primary individual rights in going beyond the nonsense traditions.
There are many points in the story which led me to the first idea. Sammy's view toward the girls and his superficial love seem very materialistic. The atmosphere is very cold ,gloomy and lifeless.
Sammy's tone seems as purposeless as himself. He has no goal because he quit his job as a gesture and only for attracting the girls' attention; moreover, he does not much care about what consequences this would have on his family. The other point is that the story happens in a store, a place of business and commerce which is completely removed from human intrinsic nature.
The name of the store also is strange and meaningless, like the new generation's life.
In Sammy's view, the concept of family is very troublesome and boring; he takes it to be devoid of any value. This becomes especially clear from his mocking tone when speaking about Stokesie who is a responsible married man or about the mother's behavior towards her children.
On the other hand ,there can be a second view which can also be logical. The traditional ideas are limiting individual rights. Sammy is actually venting his anger and protest. He is following the girls whom belong to the new generatio and a new social class, a journey from innocence to maturation. He is a member of a generation who wants to break the traditional shackles, to live freely, and to protest against the insensible customs. This objection first begins in the high class of society then Sammy who belongs to a lower class of society follows them doubtfully. He is experiencing something which is completely new to him. He has grown up in a traditional family; a family that became sad when he lost his job in that way. But he himself did not think so. And there is also Stokesie who does not notice the girls and their objection.
In addition, he is regarded as an unfaithful member of the generation who is still stuck with the old traditions in the mind and just thinks about his promotion in the store and wanting to be the head of the store. There is also Lengel, a member of a generation who cannot stand the girls' way of dressing. He cannot understand Sammy. He did not even ask the reason for his quitting. The new generation wants a new, free and modern life.
Maybe it is one of literature's characteristics that can be interpreted in such different ways. Or probably it is just a mistake in interpretation.