Motives for the protagonist's gesture of protest in John Updike's "A&P".

Essay by gmikura March 2004

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The story "A&P" by John Updike, illustrates the choice of a young man to follow principle and to have a more liberal way of life. Sammy, a nineteen year-old, was a worker at the local A&P (Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company) in a middle class neighborhood, and he was led to quit his job as a protest against a perceived insult to a young woman he admired. He wanted to quit his job as he did not like it and moreover he was not contended with the way of life and culture of his town. He wanted to have his own liberal way of life which had no restrictions. Sammy's gesture was also directed at getting the attention of the girls at the store. He wanted to prove himself heroic in front of them through his gesture of protest.

Sammy's view of life was different from those around him.

He had a more broad-minded attitude towards life. This can be understood from the fact that he wasn't bothered by the appearance of the three girls in bathing suits inside a grocery store. He did not care if the people had normal and decent clothing. He had no regard for authority and wished to follow his own instincts.

Sammy did not have a positive attitude towards his job. He despised it and this was a reason why he quit. It is evident when he says, "I go through the punches, 4, 9, GROC, TOT - it's more complicated than you think and after you do it often enough, it begins to make a little song,..., and nestle the herrings in a bag and twist its neck and hand it over, all the time thinking.", (John Updike 1283), that Sammy is not enjoying his job because if he is, then,