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The A&P
John Updike uses Sammy’s attitude toward the people and the town along with
the setting of the dreary atmosphere of the A&P to exhibit his change from a young,
immature boy to a man who is finally ready to experience the fruits of growing up.
Sammy’s attitude toward the people and the town is consistently negative. The
locals, which he describes as being “north of Boston-where there’s been people in this
town that haven’t seen the ocean for 20 years” go on as if their lives are a meaningless,
mediocre array of events, and Sammy doesn’t believe that this is the way to live. His life
takes a sudden turn when the girls came along. Such rebellious behavior as going down
the aisle the wrong way or wearing a bathing suit into the store instantaneously seized
Sammy’s attention. The locals, as well as Sammy’s manager, were bewildered to see such
unconventional behavior. These rebellious girls, Queenie, in particular, seemed to hold a
certain fascination over him, as he goes into great detail over the girl’s looks. He sort of
sees them as objects, and doesn’t give much respect to them. As the story progresses,
Sammy is not bitter toward them, but actually seems to become more fond of them. By the
end of the story, Sammy feels a sense of empathy for the girls, perhaps embarrassment
over the way they were treated by his manager. He then begins to see the girls as humans
and quits his job, hoping to be their unseen hero. To no such avail, Sammy is
overwhelmed with the immense change his life will be going through.
Updike uses two types of setting, beginning with a manufactured setting, the A&P.
Sammy’s job as a clerk at the A&P is of comfort and stability in a little, routine-oriented
community just north of Boston. It is clear by Sammy’s description of the people as sheep
and pigs and the store with its “checker-board green-and-cream rubber-tile floor” and
florescent lights that ...

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