A & P: A Character Analysis Of Sammy

1084 words - 4 pages

Bildungsroman, by definition, is a coming of age story. The word, of German origin,

translates in English as being a story that traces the spiritual, moral, psychological, or social development and growth of the main character from childhood to maturity. This is a prototype of John Updike's short story, "A & P," the protagonist, Sammy, is faced with a difficult dilemma, and comes to realize a universal truth about human behavior. Sammy comes to understand that the world is an unusual place and that irrational choices based on impulse are not the best way to solve personal issues.

The controversy between Sammy and his boss, Lengel, takes place one hot summer day in an A & P, located five miles from the local beach near Salem, MA. Three young ladies walk in wearing beach attire, consisting of nothing more than bathing suits. Just because these ladies have bathing suits on, which usually means that they are sexually desirable, does not mean that they are all mesmerizing. One of the girls is wearing a plaid green two-piece bathing suit. She is a chunky one with an enormous "can" (334). Sammy notices that she has a nice tan, except for the white creases outlining the bottom of her "can" (334). The second girl is described as being the girl who never quite makes it, which means that she is the ugly one of the trio. The third girl is the one to which Sammy is sexually attracted. Described as the "queen" of the group, Sammy notices that her bathing suit straps are down and between her stomach and neck is her monolithic chest representing a "dented sheet of metal" (334). Racing, raging hormones striving within Sammy take over his train of thought, and he is immediately lost in lust.

During the mid-to-late 60's, bikinis were not a common site, especially in a local A & P. Lengel, the manager of the store, condemns the girls for how they are dressed. He verbally attacks the girls, saying "This isn't the beach... After this come in here with your shoulders covered. It's our policy." (336). Not only does he attack the girl's outward appearance, but he also attacks them emotionally. Lengel's actions cause everyone in the store to stop and stare at the girls, causing the half-naked trio to become somewhat uncomfortable with what they are wearing, embarrassing the girls beyond all shame. Lengel does not stop for one second to think that maybe these girls have more pride than they are outwardly expressing. He does not seem to care who the girls are, or what the girls can become, he simply stereotypes them into being nothing more than those of ill-repute. Even though Lengel has spent the entire morning "Haggling with a truck full of cabbages" (335), this is still no reason to "fly off" at the three girls for doing nothing more than representing the free-spirited, individualistic, andnon-conformists of the era.

Taken aback by his boss's actions, Sammy impulsively decides to quit his job. After he rips off his apron and...

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