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Sammy And The Setting In John Updike's "A&P"

894 words - 4 pages

John Updike's "A&P" is about a boy named Sammy, who lives a simple life while working in a supermarket he seems to despise. As he is following his daily routine, three girls in bathing suits enter the store. The girls affect everyone's monotonous lives, especially Sammy's. Because the girls disrupt the routines of the store, Sammy becomes aware of his life and decides to change himself.

Before the girls enter the store, Sammy is unaware that the setting he is so judgmental of reflects his own life. Sammy feels that he is better than the rest of people at the A&P, referring to them as "sheep" and "house-slaves" because they never break from their daily routines. He also condescendingly talks about "whatever it is they[the customers]...mutter." Reinforcing his superiority above the people in the store, Sammy sees himself as a person that can seldom be "trip[ped]...up." Although he sees himself being superior to the store, the reality is that the store closely reflects Sammy's life. He seems to have a long-term commitment to the store since his apron has his name stitched on it, and he has been working at the store long enough to have memorized the entire contents of the "cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-rice-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft drinks-crackers-and-cookies." His day is also filled with the routine of working at the register, a routine that is so familiar that he has created a cash register song. Sammy also identifies with his co-worker Stokesie, "the responsible married man," and therefore wishes to someday be the manager of the store, like Lengel. Even the "checkerboard" floor represents a game of checkers, a simple one-directional game that closely models Sammy's life. Although Sammy is nineteen years old, he is still living the life of a child. He is living in the safety of the community and has very few responsibilities or decisions to make; his mother even irons his shirt for him. Sammy also identifies with his co-worker Stokesie, "the responsible married man," and therefore wishes to someday be the manager of the store, like Lengel. He continues to live an artificial life with no risks under artificial fluorescent light of the store; a life he is completely unaware of.

When the girls disrupt the patterns of the store, the one-way patterns of Sammy's life are also disrupted, causing him to reflect on his life. As Sammy looks at the girls, he first notices the areas on them where the sun has affected their skin tone, and he becomes infatuated with these areas since he generally sees women "varicose veins" and "no eyebrows" underneath the fluorescent lights of the store. These sun kissed...

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