John Updike's "A & P"

Essay by JustUsCollege, UndergraduateA, August 2009

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"A & P"At first glance, John Updike's "A & P" seems to vividly describe inconsequential events that occur in a small town grocery store. Tony Saldivar posits that Updike used his artistic background to aid Sammy's description of the girls, especially "Queenie", to embody his sexual desires into his own personal Venus (Saldivar); while, Robert Peltier posits that Updike used the then-current social and cultural aspects to create, "an early harbinger of the youthful rebellion of the 1960s" (Peltier). During further inspection, one may find both arguments valid as well as draw their own conclusions as to the deeper meaning of Sammy's actions and ensuing events.

Upon introduction we realize that we are reading from a first person perspective, that of the main character Sammy. Sammy is a nineteen year old male working as a cashier in his town's local, usually uneventful, grocery store. On an otherwise ordinary day, three girls walk into his store wearing only their swimsuits which draws his attention.

During the girls' escapade through the store Sammy describes their appearances, as well as their actions, in perfect detail. This leads us to believe that Sammy is an ordinary teenage boy whose hormones are raging as he is focused on ogling the young female customers. Sammy's boss notices the scantily clad girls and makes mention of their indecent dress which embarrasses them and seems to fuel Sammy's resignation.

While Sammy's sexual desire for the girls is a strong focus, we find that he also respects them. Sammy makes a pseudo-sexual joke with his fellow cashier but he also notices the way the butcher looks at the girls and feels sorry for them. Through his romantic ideation, rather than sexual as Saldivar suggests, Sammy realizes he wants more out of life than simply having desires rather than acting...