Short Story a&P Essay

This is and essay of the short story A&P ENGL 1102 – summer 8:00am 29 July, 2009 First Step of Maturity Everybody makes hard decisions through life that mature them. In John Updike’s short story “A&P” Sammy, a nineteen-year-old clerk working the checkout line at the A&P grocery store, decides to quit his job because he stands out for his decision and fallows it thought. The story focuses on the observation, through Sammy’s point of view, of three girls that come to the store wearing bathing suits, and the reaction of the people for the commotion the girls cause.

These bathing suits reveal not only the girls’ flesh, but also Sammy’s personal character. Sammy is a good observer but careless at his job; however, at the end of the story he faces the first step of maturity. Sammy demonstrates through his words that he is an excellent observer. When Sammy observes and says, “There was this chunky one, with the two piece – it was bright green and the seams on the bra well still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale so I guessed she just got it” (753) it is clear that he works hard to perceive every single details of the girls.

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Sammy spends time describing the others two girls detailed, and every single movement they make around the store. Then he describes the people’s reactions cause by the girls’ commotion. Sammy’s observational skill gives a better image to the reader of the story. His observable behavior tells his desire to understand the facts about the world around him. Moreover, the way he observers and talk about the girls give clues of his transitions from a teenage to an adult. When Sammy says, “ –bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down. (753) “She turned so slow it made my stomach rub” (754) it demonstrates that he does not have much experience dealing girls. He gets very excited for little things that for a grown man may not affect as much as it does to Sammy. Although Sammy is good at observing his surrounds, he shows immaturity by careless at his job. While observing the girls, Sammy realizes that he is no paying attention to his job when he says, “I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I ran it up or not” (753). It indicates that Sammy is not acting the way a grown man ill act. Not only he does not care about his job, but he describes his job as a boring one, “The store is pretty empty”, “so there was nothing to do except lean on the register” (755) This quotation proves that Sammy feel tired of working at A&P. Sammy also demonstrates dislike for the costumers that usually go to the store, “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle” (754). These “sheep” (754) represent the life that most had settled for in that time period. These people are conformists that don’t have the courage to walk outside of the lines.

Sammy’s description of sheep may be “usually women with six children”, that “nobody could care less. ” (754) in other words, these people are the model that he does not want to become in the future. Living in the word around “sheep” is not an option for Sammy; he chose to find out what lies beyond A&P. Later on, Sammy’s conflict begins when Lengel, comes. At the time the girls are paying, Lengel comes from the back of the store and tells the girls that A&P is not a beach. This action makes one of the girls blush.

The manager, however, keeps reprimanding the girls. This action affects Sammy so much that he reconsiders quitting his job, Sammy retorts, “You didn’t have to embarrass them”, “I quit” (756). Once Sammy has made his mind up he never once steers from his course of action. For the first time Sammy does something different to prove, the manager, the girls, and himself that he is capable of making a decision and going through with it. Sammy follows what he thinks is right no matter what other people say or think. He knows that quitting brings its bad consequences.

However Sammy does not regrets to quit. When Sammy says, “Now here comes the sad part of the story, at least for my family says it’s sad, but I don’t think it’s so sad myself” (755) Sammy is aware of his actions and that he does not regrets anything. Sammy believes that once one beginning something in life or makes a decision it is essential to go through with it until the end. In essence, Sammy stands up to his manager not for chivalry; but for independence. After all, Sammy does not change much thought the story, he is not different but stronger in character.

The decision he made was not a simple one. Although he didn’t seemingly think it through, his decision, however impulsive, was a gesture towards personal growth and maturity. Through this transition, he has matured and his eyes have been opened to, what he thought, was a whole new world now. Above all, Sammy quits not to impress the girls, but to make the first step of maturity. Work Cited Updike, John. “A & P. ” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Eds.. X. J Bedford and Michael Meyer . 8th ed. Boston, 2007. 753—757.


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