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A & P, By John Updike

2288 words - 9 pages

The short story “A & P” by John Updike is about a young man’s decision to stand up for others or, in the other characters’ opinions, make a foolish decision by abandoning his responsibility. At first he believes his decision is the right thing, quitting his job for how the girls were being treated. Then when he gets outside of the store, he realizes the world he just left behind, regrets his decision, and begins to question his actions. He starts to overthink what the world has to offer him, making his worldview change from underrating to overrating. His “unsure of the world’s dangers” worldview in the beginning changes to overrating the dangers of the future ahead at the end of the story causing Sammy to change throughout “A & P”.
The beginning of “A & P” starts with the main character, Sammy, at work when three girls in nothing but bathing suits walks in. According to Lawrence Dessner, the A & P check out counter showed Sammy a sample of insult and indignity of ordinary people (317). He may not have liked the people that shopped there, but he received insight of the real world. A woman that was currently at Sammy's counter was middle aged and brought Sammy no sympathy to the shoppers; he sometimes mention them as sheep. His names of the shoppers also include insight of Sammy's view of the ordinary shoppers; Sammy did not care much for others.
“Sammy wishes to quit, but he resists doing so because his parents would regard his decision as 'the sad part of the story'” (Thompson 215). Sammy points out that he thinks of quitting his job many times during the story, subtle as they are, he begins with the observation of quitting during the summer rather the winter and the part where he has mentioned “the sad part of the story” (Updike, 411). Sammy's decision was on the spure of the moment, not thinking clearly enough to understand the consequences becomes what his parents believe to be a sad decision. They were not mad at him quitting, they were dissapointed in Sammy over the reasons he chose to quit for.
Roland Mcfarland states that Cassil, described Sammy as “a good natured, average boy,” and has “a vague preference for beauty, liberty, youth, and recklessness.” (qtd. in Mcfarland, 96). Cassil is correct about Sammy having a subtle liking for beauty and youth, but good natured may not suit Sammy as Cassil may have assumed. Sammy is a nineteen year old that did not want to upset his parents but also did not want the responsibility he held in his hands. Young men that are in the adolescence years before becoming a man has a taste for trouble, beauty, and liberty. Sammy may be a little good natured but he is still a foolish young man who can not keep his eyes off of three girls in bathing suits. Nothing in the text says Sammy is either a good natured or rude person, but the context of parts of “A & P” suggests that he is a mixture of both characteristics.
To Dessner ,critic of Updike's “A & P,” Sammy is naive to an outrageous extent but also...

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