Sensuality vs. Reality in Ernest Hemingway's Short Story A&P
John Updike once said, "Man lacks grace because he has retreated from responsibility into sensuality." Sammy, the protagonist in Updike's short story, "A&P", is a perfect literary representation of this quote. During the course of "A&P", he runs from every responsibility he has, just to make himself feel better. He gets distracted from his duties at work and makes mistakes because he is busy gawking at some girls, and he ultimately quits those duties simply to try to impress those girls. Even though Sammy is nineteen, he is not mature enough to hold to his own responsibilities. Rather, he runs from them to retreat into his own sensuality.
"In walks three girls in nothing but bathing suits"(Kennedy 13). This is how the story "A&P", and subsequently, Sammy's shirking of his duties begins. The usual customers at the store where Sammy works are "sheep"(Kennedy14); they are old, dull people that would not cause a distraction for a nineteen year-old boy. These girls, however, are something new in Sammy's work routine. Throughout the entire story, Sammy is focused on these girls. When they enter, he begins to describe one, "She was a chunky kid…"(Kennedy 13). As they walk through the store, he notices miniscule details about the girls and even makes generalizations on what their personalities are like. "There was this tall one…the kind of girl others think is very 'striking' and 'attractive'…and then the third one…She was the queen…but you got the idea that she had talked the other two into coming in here with her"(Kennedy 13). He watches them walk "against the usual traffic"(Kennedy 14), and wonders why they are at the A&P, because "it's not as if we're on the cape"(Kennedy 14). When finally the girls stroll over to the checkout counter, he is distracted ten fold more than before. "Now her hands are empty…and I wonder where the money's coming from. Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow center of her nubbled pink top. The jar went heavy in my hand" (Kennedy 15).
All through this story, Sammy follows these girls, pondering over their persons and personalities, when, all the while, he is supposed to be concentrating on his job. He is standing behind a cash register in the A&P, a grocery store. He is not there to gawk at people walking through; he is there to make sure that the customers coming through are served to the best of his ability. However, the second that something appealing walks through the door, Sammy forgets his responsibilities and begins to retreat into the sensual. When the girls first walk in, he is supposed to be checking out...