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In John Updike’s “A&P,” Sammy a nineteen year old checker at a local grocery store meets three bathing beauties who inadvertently end up affecting his entire life. It is a summer day as Sammy is tending to duties at his third slot register, when three girls scantily attired in two piece bathing suits and without shoes on, walk in. As Sammy is attempting to ring up their purchase, Mr. Lengel, the manager of the A&P, walks up to the girls to inform them that this isn’t the beach and they are improperly dressed to be shopping in this store. They are asked to dress decently the next time they come in. Noticing one of the girls blushing, Sammy decides to impress them and tells Lengel he is quitting. Realizing that Sammy is attempting to play hero in front of the girls, Lengel gives him a chance to change his mind. Although Sammy agrees with Lengel that this action will not be soon forgotten, he decides to go through with his decision. Updike suggests that adolescence is an impulsive age as well as a rite of passage into adult hood.
The author has chosen to present this story through first person point of view. Updike allows Sammy, the main character, to narrate, giving the reader insight to his personality and background. Since this story revolves around an adolescent’s world, it is appropriate for this story that we listen through his eyes, biased as it may be. As we listen to Sammy’s vivid descriptions and sense his awe of the situation, we know that uncontrolled hormones command his young mind.
Although some critics question Updike’s use of sexual overtones and exploitation of women in several of his writings (ACC par.1), this story would not have provided the reader insight to the raging hormones of Sammy, had the author chosen a less descriptive method of story telling. Updike’s sexual descriptions allude to the thoughts of adolescent boys of this age group.
The A&P grocery chain, officially known as th...
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