Analyzing And Interpreting A&P
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John Updike’s “A&P” is a humorous story that ends with quite a surprise. When the reader discovers, along with all the other employees, that Sammy resigns after the three girls had been told to leave, we may be surprised or not, based on how well we interpreted Sammy’s personality. Most readers, including myself, would not think Sammy would go to such great lengths as to quit his job, which the story’s final paragraphs explicate. This especially meant a lot to the manager, Lengel, because he had been friends with Sammy’s parents for years. Legnel knew the lengths his father went to get him this job and tells him before he leaves, “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your Mom and Dad” (696). This last paragraph shows Sammy’s distinctive personality and will do what he feels is right.

Sammy seems to be the typical boy in that he can not help but examine the three girls walking into the store. This idea is shown first when,“I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not” (692). He is too obsessed with the girls and is more worried about them rather than his job. Sammy interprets the “queen’s” movements, which makes it very enjoyable for him to watch. Updike uses a great variety of adjectives when he describes the women with “long white prima-donna legs” and by saying “have been anything whiter than those shoulders” (692-93).

Sammy gets into the physiological mindset of the girls when he states, “You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?) but you got the ideaвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (693). This is actually a distinct irony in order to keep his focus on his own mind, which in fact is the purpose of this story. The reader also becomes aware of Updike’s sense of humor in the previous quote.

At the start of this story, Sammy is a youth learning about the life in a grocery store. Sammy looks up to Stokesie who is a twenty-two year old supporting a family of his own doing the same job that Sammy does. The only difference is that Stokesie has hopes of being a manager like Lengel some day. Stokesie seems to be just as juvenile as Sammy, with his “Oh, Daddy, I feel so faint” and even Sammy sees that, stating “as far as I can tell that’s the only difference” (693).

Sammy’s description of the A&P provides a setting that is very dull, and repetitive. Updike’s use of the fluorescent lights in the story symbolizes that the girls are in a way “artificial” because he tried to impress them by quitting his job but in fact they left the store before his walk off scene. Sammy was hoping that by resigning, all three girls would be surprised that someone actually tried to stand up for them. He eventually looked forward to becoming good friends with the girls.

Whatever respect the story creates for Sammy cannot be the result of his actions. There was not a compelling excuse for him to quit his job once Lengel told them to leave; he should not be proud of what he does either. Instead, he chose the path less traveled

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Only Difference And Such Great Lengths. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from