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Growing Pains Essay

1122 words - 5 pages

In the short story “A & P” author John Updike introduces Sammy, a young cashier at the supermarket A & P, who becomes mesmerized by three girls who walk in to the grocery store wearing nothing but bathing suits. The story follows Sammy’s thoughts while he traces the girls’ path around the store, daydreaming about who they are and why they are in the store. While checking out, the three girls are reprimanded for their lack of clothing by the store’s manager and in a display of presumptuous chivalry, Sammy quits his job. However, when one assumes perceptions to be reality the mystery of another’s mind can prove to be disappointingly different, and therefore one should make decisions carefully ...view middle of the document...

The attitude expressed by both Sammy and Lengel, the manager, differ greatly. Sammy feels as if Lengel is embarrassing the girls while Lengel feels that he is simply doing his job. Sammy, a lively nineteen year old, views the girls as some sort of eye candy, while Lengel, a languid middle aged man, disapproves of their choice of apparel to enter the store. The manager is older and wiser than Sammy shown by his characterization and actions when talking to the three girls and his warnings to Sammy when Sammy decides to quit. Being that he is young and easily influenced by sex, Sammy is led to believe that his decision is correct at the time. Afterwards he goes outside and looks for the girls, only to discover they’ve already left. This is when he faces the realization that his choice to quit will impact his life in an extreme way.
Sammy’s clash with Lengel is the central external conflict in the story. The girls represent a life that Sammy pines and Lengel’s uptightness repulses Sammy who wants to live a more opulent lifestyle. This sets off Sammy’s internal struggle marked by fellow cashier and friend, Stokesie – a twenty-two year old, married man, with two young children. Sammy and Stokesie have good jobs yet if Stokesie quit his job, he would be abandoning his responsibilities and letting his family down. For him, the chance to make a radical change in his life’s course has passed. Sammy, on the other hand, has a window of opportunity, that exists between youth and adulthood, during which if he has the courage and the will he can choose another path. Uneasy of Lengel’s humiliation of the girls; Sammy decides to take a stand, by quitting, in hopes of becoming the girls’ “unsuspecting hero.” Lengel thinks that quitting is a mistake, but it is too late to do anything about it.
The story is told from the first person limited point of view of Sammy. From the opening line, "in walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits," Updike establishes Sammy's distinctively colloquial voice. Most of the story is told in the present tense, as if Sammy is talking. His sardonic observations about his...

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