Role of the Female Protagonists in Groundhog Day and A & P
Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, is a film about a television weatherman named Phil who relives the same day, 2 March, over and over again. A & P is a short story by John Updike in which a cashier, Sammy, has his routine day disrupted when three girls wearing swimming suits stroll into the grocery store where he works and are confronted by the manager. Though their storylines vary greatly, in both works the main character in each is a self-centered, condescending male who eventually realises the flaws in his character. This realisation is, in part, brought out by supernatural forces in Groundhog Day and by a manager's harsh words in A & P. However, in each work, the female protagonist, Rita in Groundhog Day and the character nicknamed 'Queenie' in A & P, acts as a catalyst, inspiring and motivating the main character to change.
At the beginning of each work, the main character is self-centered, unempathetic and condescending. Phil shows this in his treatment of others: his snide remarks to his cameraman (Larry), his mockery of Rita's groundhog impersonation, his rude dismissal of his admittedly obnoxious former schoolmate and his contempt for the small town of Punxsatawney and its citizens. In Groundhog Day , Sammy refers to his customers as "pigs" and "sheep". He calls the elderly "bums" and describes housewives as being "houseslaves". He describes his manager, Lengel as being "dreary" and wonders whether girls even have minds. Both characters seem to look down on everyone around them.
Into the lives of these two self-centered men enter the female protagonists Rita and Queenie, who represent everything the men are not. Rita is empathetic (booking Phil into a Bed and Breakfast rather than the usual hotel), concerned for others (she always toasts to world peace), optimistic (she suggests that Phil's predicament is a blessing rather than a curse) and self-doubting (she is embarrassed to mention that her major in university was French literature). Unlike Phil, she never tells a lie or says a harsh word about anyone. The character of Queenie is less developed-she is only shown though the narrator's eyes as she walks through the supermarket with her two friends. However, she still represents something that Sammy is not: she is a leader and she is blithely unconventional; she is a challenge to the status quo. When Sammy sees the girls he comments
"You know it's one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach. Where . . . nobody can look at each other much anyway, and another thing in the cool of the A&P under the fluorescent lights . . .
Sammy says nothing to indicate that he disagrees with the social norm. Queenie, however, sees no reason to adhere to such conventions. When scolded by the manager, she replies by saying, "We are decent". It never occurs to her that ...