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Risky Attire: A&P By John Updike

1245 words - 5 pages

In “A & P”, John Updike conveys the reaction of bystanders to three young women when they enter a grocery store, dressed in swim wear during a day at the beach. The ladies begin touring the store in search of Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks for Queeie’s mother. Lengel, the store manager, takes notice of the girl’s attire as they navigate to the cashier to pay for their snack and disapprovingly confronts them. During Lengel’s conversation at the checkout, Queenie understandably becomes uncomfortable and defensive. She attempts to defend herself but the store manager relentlessly reiterates his opinion. The checkout interaction in “A & P’ causes me to flashback to my early teenage years when I experienced unwelcomed disapproval regarding my choice of attire.
Although quite common today, the scene John Updike describes in “A & P’ causes distractions in the normally uneventfully grocery store nestled in town. As Sammy goes about his usual business of assisting customers with their groceries purchases, three young ladies enter that cause quite a distraction. The A & P’s typically customers consist of matronly women and these beautiful young ladies cause Sammy’s attention to drift from his duties at the checkout as he sees the barefoot visitors enter the quaint store. The girls, sporting swim wear and barely covered sun kissed bodies, confidently move about and seem to be unaware of the obvious attention from spectators. Stokesie, a fellow cashier, finds his attention drawn to the girls as he exclaims, “I feel so faint”, (Updike 20) demonstrating the intoxicating effect of the unusual visitors.
The girls parade isle by isle, barefoot and seem unaware of the distraction caused by their presence. Confidently they walk against the grain of shoppers, following the unspoken one way directions in the isles. Fellow customers glance for a moment to catch a glimpse of their partially bare bodies but quickly look back to their carts to assess the progress of their food shopping trip. Updike describes “house slaves”, (Updike 20) who take a double look to confirm the sight of the girl’s parade by in bathing suits. Queenie and her crew seem unaware of the attention as they navigate to the meat counter for assistance locating an item. After stopping at the meat counter to inquire with McMahon, even he gawks at them as they walk on, obviously taken with the girl’s appearance.
Updikes’ story takes me back to a brisk October approximately twenty-two years ago. The recent transition to Junior High School enabled me to meet a new, exciting group of friends. I quickly became inseparable best friends with Stacey. Stacey and I felt like we knew each other our whole lives, although our friendship only encompassed several months. Both of us possessed extremely adventurous and slightly rebellious personalities, often pushing the boundaries and testing the rules. As Halloween quickly approached Stacey and I decided the holiday would be suitable to...

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