Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A & P by John Updike

A&P by john updike
In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits. I'm in the third check-out slot, with my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread. The one that caught my eye first was the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs. I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell. She's one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I knowit made her day to trip me up. She'd been watching cash registers forty years and probably never seen a mistake before.
By the time I got her feathers smoothed and her goodies into a bag -- she gives me alittle snort in passing, if she'd been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem -- by the time I get her on her way the girls had circled around the bread and were coming back, without a pushcart, back my way along the counters, in the aisle between the check-outs and the Special bins. They didn't even have shoes on. There was this chunky one, with the two-piece -- it was bright green and the seams on the bra were still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale so I guessed she just got it (the suit) -- there was this one, with one of those chubby berry-faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose, this one, and a tall one, with black hair that hadn't quite frizzed right, and one of these sunburns right across under the eyes, and a chin that was too long -- you know, the kind of girl other girls think is very "striking" and "attractive" but never quite makes it, as they very well know, which is why they like her so much -- and then the third one, that wasn't quite so tall. She was the queen. She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn't look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima donna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didn't walk in her bare feet that much, putting down her heels and then letting the weight move along to her toes as if she was testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it. 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 glassjar?) but you got the idea she had talked the other two into coming in here with her, and now she was showing them how to do it, walk slow and hold yourself straight.
She had on a kind of dirty-pink - - beige maybe, I don't know -- bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down. They were off her shoulders looped loose around the cool tops of her arms, and I guess as a result the suit had slipped a little on her, so all around the top of the cloth there was this shining rim. If it hadn't been there you wouldn't have known there could have been anything whiter than those shoulders. With the straps pushed off, there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light. I mean, it was more than pretty.
She had sort of oaky hair that the sun and salt had bleached, done up in a bun that was unravelling, and a kind of prim face. Walking into the A & P with your straps down, I suppose it's the only kind of face you can have. She held her head so high her neck, coming up out o fthose white shoulders, looked kind of stretched, but I didn't mind. The longer her neck was, the more of her there was.
She must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn't tip. Not this queen. She kept her eyes moving across the racks, and stopped, and turned so slow it made my stomach rub the inside of my apron, and buzzed to the other two, who kind of huddled against her for relief, and they all three of them went up the cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-ri ce-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spaghetti-soft drinks- rackers-and- cookies aisle. From the third slot I look straight up this aisle to the meat counter, and I watched them all the way. The fat one with the tan sort of fumbled with the cookies, but on second thought she put the packages back. The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle -- the girls were walking against the usual traffic (not that we have one-way signs or anything) -- were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie's white shoulders dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed. I bet you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering "Let me see, there was a third thing, began with A, asparagus, no, ah, yes, applesauce!" or whatever it is they do mutter. But there was no doubt, this jiggled them. A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct.
You know, it's one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway, and another thing in the cool of the A & P, under the fluorescent lights, against all those stacked packages, with her feet paddling along naked over our checkerboard green-and-cream rubber-tile floor.
"Oh Daddy," Stokesie said beside me. "I feel so faint."
"Darling," I said. "Hold me tight." Stokesie's married, with two babies chalked up on his fuselage already, but as far as I can tell that's the only difference. He's twenty-two, and I was nineteen this April.
"Is it done?" he asks, the responsible married man finding his voice. I forgot to say he thinks he's going to be manager some sunny day, maybe in 1990 when it's called the Great Alexandrov and Petrooshki Tea Company or something.
What he meant was, our town is five miles from a beach, with a big summer colony out on the Point, but we're right in the middle of town, and the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street. And anyway these are usually women with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs and nobody, including them, could care less. As I say, we're right in the middle of town, and if you stand at our front doors you can see two banks and the Congregational church and the newspaper store and three real-estate offices and about twenty-seven old free-loaders tearing up Central Street because the sewer broke again. It's not as if we're on the Cape; we're north of Boston and there's people in this town haven't seen the ocean for twenty years.
The girls had reached the meat counter and were asking McMahon something. He pointed, they pointed, and they shuffled out of sight behind a pyramid of Diet Delight peaches. All that was left for us to see was old McMahon patting his mouth and looking after them sizing up their joints. Poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn't help it.
Now here comes the sad part of the story, at:least my family says it's sad but I don't think it's sad myself. The store's pretty empty, it being Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again. The whole store was like a pinball machine and I didn't know which tunnel they'd come out of. After a while they come around out of the far aisle, around the light bulbs, records at discount of the Caribbean Six or Tony Martin Sings or some such gunk you wonder they waste the wax on, sixpacks of candy bars, and plastic toys done up in cellophane that faIl apart when a kid looks at them anyway. Around they come, Queenie still leading the way, and holding a little gray jar in her hand. Slots Three through Seven are unmanned and I could see her wondering between Stokes and me, but Stokesie with his usual luck draws an old party in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice (what do these bums do with all that pineapple juice' I've often asked myself) so the girls come to me. Queenie puts down the jar and I take it into my fingers icy cold. Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream: 49¢. Now her hands are empty, not a ring or a bracelet, bare as God made them, and I wonder where the money's coming from. Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top. The jar went heavy in my hand. Really, I thought that was so cute.
Then everybody's luck begins to run out. Lengel comes in from haggling with a truck full of cabbages on the lot and is about to scuttle into that door marked MANAGER behind which he hides all day when the girls touch his eye. Lengel's pretty dreary, teaches Sunday school and the rest, but he doesn't miss that much. He comes over and says, "Girls, this isn't the beach."
Queenie blushes, though maybe it's just a brush of sunburn I was noticing for the first time, now that she was so close. "My mother asked me to pick up a jar of herring snacks." Her voice kind of startled me, the way voices do when you see the people first, coming out so flat and dumb yet kind of tony, too, the way it ticked over "pick up" and "snacks." All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room. Her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them. When my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it's a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoons stencilled on.
"That's all right," Lengel said. "But this isn't the beach." His repeating this struck me as funny, as if it hadjust occurred to him, and he had been thinking all these years the A & P was a great big dune and he was the head lifeguard. He didn't like my smiling -- -as I say he doesn't miss much -- but he concentrates on giving the girls that sad Sunday- school-superintendent stare.
Queenie's blush is no sunburn now, and the plump one in plaid, that I liked better from the back -- a really sweet can -- pipes up, "We weren't doing any shopping. We just came in for the one thing."
"That makes no difference," Lengel tells her, and I could see from the way his eyes went that he hadn't noticed she was wearing a two-piece before. "We want you decently dressed when you come in here."
"We are decent," Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy. Fancy Herring Snacks flashed in her very blue eyes.
"Girls, I don't want to argue with you. After this come in here with your shoulders covered. It's our policy." He turns his back. That's policy for you. Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.
All this while, the customers had been showing up with their carts but, you know, sheep, seeing a scene, they had all bunched up on Stokesie, who shook open a paper bag as gently as peeling a peach, not wanting to miss a word. I could feel in the silence everybody getting nervous, most of all Lengel, who asks me, "Sammy, have you rung up this purchase?"
I thought and said "No" but it wasn't about that I was thinking. I go through the punches, 4, 9, GROC, TOT -- it's more complicated than you think, and after you do it often enough, it begins to make a lttle song, that you hear words to, in my case "Hello (bing) there, you (gung) hap-py pee-pul (splat)"-the splat being the drawer flying out. I uncrease the bill, tenderly as you may imagine, it just having come from between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla I had ever known were there, and pass a half and a penny into her narrow pink palm, and nestle the herrings in a bag and twist its neck and hand it over, all the time thinking.
The girls, and who'd blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say "I quit" to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they'll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero. They keep right on going, into the electric eye; the door flies open and they flicker across the lot to their car, Queenie and Plaid and Big Tall Goony-Goony (not that as raw material she was so bad), leaving me with Lengel and a kink in his eyebrow.
"Did you say something, Sammy?"
"I said I quit."
"I thought you did."
"You didn't have to embarrass them."
"It was they who were embarrassing us."
I started to say something that came out "Fiddle-de-doo." It's a saying of my grand- mother's, and I know she would have been pleased.
"I don't think you know what you're saying," Lengel said.
"I know you don't," I said. "But I do." I pull the bow at the back of my apron and start shrugging it off my shoulders. A couple customers that had been heading for my slot begin to knock against each other, like scared pigs in a chute.
Lengel sighs and begins to look very patient and old and gray. He's been a friend of my parents for years. "Sammy, you don't want to do this to your Mom and Dad," he tells me. It's true, I don't. But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it. I fold the apron, "Sammy" stitched in red on the pocket, and put it on the counter, and drop the bow tie on top of it. The bow tie is theirs, if you've ever wondered. "You'll feel this for the rest of your life," Lengel says, and I know that's true, too, but remembering how he made that pretty girl blush makes me so scrunchy inside I punch the No Sale tab and the machine whirs "pee-pul" and the drawer splats out. One advantage to this scene taking place in summer, I can follow this up with a clean exit, there's no fumbling around getting your coat and galoshes, I just saunter into the electric eye in my white shirt that my mother ironed the night before, and the door heaves itself open, and outside the sunshine is skating around on the asphalt.
I look around for my girls, but they're gone, of course. There wasn't anybody but some young married screaming with her children about some candy they didn't get by the door of a powder-blue Falcon station wagon. Looking back in the big windows, over the bags of peat moss and aluminum lawn furniture stacked on the pavement, I could see Lengel in my place in the slot, checking the sheep through. His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if he'djust had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.


At 3/16/2009 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read some comments and I don't believe what I am reading!! How does Sammy have issues? How is he a pig? He is just a regular teenage boy going through some hormones and gets aroused when girls in barely any clothing come around. I think that is perfectly fine. I mean yes, he is a little womanizer for implying that females have no brain but then again alot of them don't. In fact these girls in this story DIDNT have any mind or atleast lost it on the way to the store if they're going to walk into the town store with beach clothes on when there isn't a beach around for miles. I would've acted the same way, however he is stupid for losing his job and not getting any of their phone numbers.


At 4/17/2009 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off Sammy's an idiot. Yeah it's great to see three sexy broads come in to your job and then to your register, I've been in that position a million times before. He did remind me of myself when he kept checking them out because I do the same thing with girls who catch my interest, but when he quit just because they were being harassed he was an all- time idiot. Chances are he would have run into them later on so he could have met them later and still have had a job. What did he get out of quitting? He lost his job and the girls just took off, they could care less about what he did. I mean me an sammy are probably completely different but this story isn't about me so I really can't talk about how i would handle it. But yeah way to go sammy you're unemployed and got no girls, nice job.


At 4/17/2009 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the story was quite funny. I grew up with two younger brothers, ironically the were twins who had their share of girl talk and drool. In every group of girls there was always a chunky girl that took me back to my childhood, I was that chunky girl fitting in too. anyway this story is funny and reading Sammy's detail description is what makes the story interesting and keeps you reading.

At 4/19/2009 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this story quite comical! It was very interesting and entertaining to be in the mind of a teenage boy. The way they look at every detail of a womans body and the descriptions was cracking me up.
I think the girls lifestyle signifies what Sammy wants in life. A carefree life, where you can do what you want and enjoy the pleasures in life. Just from the way that he described the girls, how they walked and then how he imagined them at their house with the herring snacks and cocktails. I think this made Sammy realize that he didnt really want to work at the A&P. I dont think that he quit becuase of how Lengel treated the girls, I think he just used that as an excuse to get out. Especially because his parents are friends with Lengel, he would need a significant reason to quit I'm sure, so he would use this. Sammy is completely immature if you ask me for quiting like he did. I mean I understand not wanting to do something and realizing that you may not want that in your life but be responsible about it and make sure you have another job lined up especially if you are quiting on a friend of your parents for a stupid reason, I doubt they will help you then!

At 4/20/2009 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is a relevant insight into the adolescent mind of an kid eager to engage the opposite sex. all of his descriptions are fairly accurate of what races through the mind of a young guy hoping to attract a pretty girl. These details which seem 'offensive' to some are perfectly natural in the mind of a still maturing boy. The inner tension, hoping to be recognized by the most attractive girl in the group, the almost obsessive distant observations are traits that come as animalistic instincts a guy feels as naturally as eating when your hungry or sleeping when your tired. theres strong overtones of unfiltered, mid-pubecent sexuality that bring me back to more simple and less morally demanding states of mind. His decision to quit was a lame attempt at chivalry but commendable regardless. His boss was a totall jerk, and entirely too uptight about silly rules and regulations of which have no real bearing on the shopping experience. The girls themselves were etremely into themselves, and had no issues with flaunting their ever growing sense of sexuality, natural for all young girls who crave attention from other young boys. they way in which they did this was silly, but their attempt was obviously a successful one, considering how enthralled sammy came in their presence.

At 4/20/2009 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is the kind of story anyone can relate to as long as they read it with an open mind. I think everyone has done something foolish and random as an adolescent without first thinking it through (especially when impressing the opposite sex is on the line). In my opinion this short story gives me a clear insight on the types of things that are constantly running through a young mans mind. It's so honest, which is rare. Many people, guys and gals alike, think things like this but would never be open with it. I think its impossible to not see somebody and automatically start to focus on all their physical attributes. Anways, I love this short story...this is about the 4th time I've read it...and I just think it's an honest, fun, and entertaining piece of literature.


At 4/21/2009 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked this story. The describtions of sheep-like people in the stores is something I see. I don't think he is objectifying women through his describing of how they look. The girls are walking around a store in two-piece bathing suits, they are going to be noticed. He is just a young kid bored at his job who finally gets something good to look at among the housewives and older people who come to shop on a weekday afternoon. I just don't get why he decided to quit over them, there was no indication of them flirting or noticing him and he didn't stand up for them to his manager. The mananger was right to tell them of a dress code in a market and it didn't seem like there was a big scene made.

At 4/23/2009 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked this story. I thought Sammy's descriptions were bruttally honest and funny. It's basically what really goes on in people's heads. We can lie to ourselves all we want, but we all look and judge people all the time. We can be just as cruel at times too. Admit it.... It's one thing to think it, and another to acutally say it out loud. I didn't see any harm in Sammy's descriptions because they were all in his head.

I guess I am a little bit like Sammy, not so descriptive with my thoughts, but just as brutally honest. I can relate to him calling the customers "sheep". I thought that was hilarious, because it's so true. At least someone said it. :)

Taking a step back, I did realize that there was more than just funny, brutal comments to this story. It's about making a decision and dealing with the affects afterwards. We all, at one point, have made a brash decision. There are times when I have made a decision out of spite, even though it hurt me more than the other person. It's more of a pride thing. It's being able to withstand the reprocussions of your decision that makes you either stronger or weaker.

I think Sammy was stupid for quitting, but maybe it was more of a subconscious thing. He probably was just looking for a way out, and the girls lighted the exit sign for him.

At 4/27/2009 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sammy. Sammy. Sammy.What a boy. I'm not going to criticize Sammy's character for his description of the girls because I heard way things actually come out of a boys mouth! And I was also kinda happy with Sammy's character at the end for standing up for girls (even if it was for the wrong reasons and he stupidly lost his job for it.) I thought it kinda showed a glimpse of the man he would become. And yes the girls were kind of slow for walking into the grocery store half naked, but the manager could have pulled them to side and not humiliated them in front of the whole store. Tact is a good thing my friend.


At 5/01/2009 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was probably my least favorite story out of the ones I read so far...Although funny he was still an typical predictable male charcter. A few of the references referred to woman were obviously ment that sammy is still really immature... At the end of the day sammy was unhappy and wanted the type of of lifetyle he assumed when he was lusting over the girls in the grocery store. i'm sure many people can relate to Sammy mindset. i believ the girls knew exactly what type of atrention they would bring dressed the way they were so in a sense Sammy actions can be a little jusitifed considering the type of character he is. Qutting he job may have been the best thing Sammy could have done, although he was upset it could have motivated him to axtually do something better for himself....This waas a fun story to read and again it hits home fot so many people
Number 823 Zephir

At 5/04/2009 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story reminded me of the time I worked in a grocery store in high school. I always found myself observing people in their natural states. I questioned their tendencies, choice of groceries, and their apparel. I can't blame Sammy for doing the same. Before we question Sammy's maturity, we can't forget that he is a 19 year-old boy with a lousy summer job. How mature do we really expect him to be? I don't think we can judge Sammy's thoughts on women based on his descriptions of the girls. He is simply questioning their actions, movements, and decision to come into the grocery store in just bathing suits. Who does that? I am not afraid to say that I, just like Sammy, would also question their common sense. The only time I really questioned his maturity was when he made the decision to quit. I don't see why he thought it would impress the girls. Blame it on hormones or something. He took a stand for the wrong reasons and then acknowledges the consequences of it....definitely not worth it! 815

At 7/15/2009 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is great. I loved every minute of it. I like the humor of the narrarator. He seems very cunning and witty. He kind of reminds me of myself. I used to do the same thing. I worked as a cashier for some time at a gas station and there would be plenty of girls that would catch my eye in the process of taking care of the customers. What gets me the most is I know exactly how the customers can act when you don't show them the attention they think they deserve or ignore them. I didn't see a problem (maybe because I'm a guy) with the girls being in the supermarket with their bathing suits on. This story had to take place back in the day. I really enjoyed reading this. #115

At 7/18/2009 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't feel like Sammy's thoughts on the physical appearance of the girls was all that important in this story like most readers seem to believe. What I took away from this story was the independence adolescents try to exert because they're in a stage in their life where they're constantly changing everyday, be it physically or mentally. I find it kind of cute in a humorous way how he calls the shoppers in the store sheep and thinks that him quitting his job is somehow taking a stand against something. We've all been sheep and we'll keep being sheep in the future. I think it's just something that comes along with being part of the human race. There seems to be this one mindset amongst my generation that we all need to prove how different we are from one another, but I think it's way more beautiful to realize that we really are all the same when we boil ourselves down to our basic desires and fears. Oops, got off topic...

At 7/18/2009 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and my number is 117

At 7/19/2009 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The author has a great ability to describe his characters in a way that helps the reader visual them as if there in a movie being played right in front of you. I do not agree with some of the comments made about Sammy being a pervert. I view him as an ordinary 19-year-old boy. Although some may find the comments he made about the girls degrading towards woman, I believe it to be a great example of the mind of a 19- year old boy. At that age I feel it is not out of the norm for a teenage boy to be more concerned with hooking up with girls rather than having interest in her intellect. At first quitting his job seemed to be a little impulsive. After thinking back to my cashier super market days, the conclusion I came to is that the resignation that seemed so sudden might not have been sudden at all. Many workdays probably went by with Sammy contemplating if he should stay or go. Standing at a register is not the most exciting job for a teenager. My favorite line in this story is when Sammy says to himself, “But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it.” This line drew my attention because it was something I could relate to. Personally I’ve been in situation where half way through I was not sure if the decision I made was the best one or not. Either way it is usually too late to go back so I had to finish what I had started.


At 7/20/2009 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the manager was overreacting to the situation but he was self important and exersizing his right. Sammy's reaction could be taken a couple of different ways, one, he was ready to get rid of this job anyway and this just gave him an excuse or, two, he was grandstanding for the girls in hopes of impressing them. If it was the latter, it was a mistake since the girls didn't even acknowledge his existence. I believe it has been left up to your own speculation. 118

At 8/03/2009 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked this story, i think that it portrays the typical thoughts that anyone living in a small, insignificant town feel once in a while. to me it seems like it is not just the girls, but the fact that he is living and working at this store that is only 5 miles from the beach, and no one seems to care; his description of the vacationing community seems dull, as if he does not regard them in a positive way. he describes how the usual tourist is nothing special to him; married women with childern; but when he sees the 3 young ladies it is as if something goes off in his head and he starts dwelling on the mundane surroundings he is in. it is almost as if this builds up until he cannot take it anymore and eventually quits. i dont think it is the fact that he cant get the girls because of shyness or a lack of attempt, but because they will not look at someone of his social standing, that drives him to quit.

At 8/03/2009 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a good story. It takes you through the jumble of thoughts and hormones that make a nineteen year old guy behave. In his head, it's all machismo and hormonal, but in actions and words, he does what he thinks is chivalrous. 120

At 8/03/2009 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this was a funny story. Sammy just seems like every ordinary guy. I used to work at a pool, so I know what it is like to see girls walking around, and letting your mind wonder. Every guy does. Whether they say it out loud or not. I don't think I would go as far as quitting my job because of the comments of my co-workers. Anywhere you work, you're most likely going to have to deal with it.

At 8/03/2009 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story was quite as interesting as the others we have read. Although the story is pretty straight forward I did enjoy all the hidden meanings. There were parts of the story that every man can relate to when it comes to women. Another part of the story that touched me was how this young boy made his first decision on his own and realized the consequences were right around the corner and was willing to face them.


At 8/06/2009 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story was basically about Sammie wanting to get out of the A&P. I don't think it had anything to do with the girls. The girls were n excuse for him to leave. I feel Sammy thought his job was boring and wanted to enjoy his summer like the girls were. I don't think he was intimidated because they were rich. I also think the way he described the girls were a way for us to get inside boys' heads. It looks like it's really how boys think. Sammy didn't really want to quit his job for the sake of his parents, but he wanted to for himself. As a man he took on the rest of the world because his ego didn't let him back down. #114

At 8/06/2009 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i thought that this story was better the second time i read it. i read it years ago at my other college and just didn't get it. but the second time i felt like i connected with the story much better. sammy seemed like an innocent buy at first, but he really just judges and characterises everyone he sees. he calls all the shoppers sheep which makes them sound like dumb animals. and he even puts down "his girls" by picking apart even the smallest flaw. And he can say all these things in his head about everyone but doesn't have the balls to say it to there face, he doesn't even start a conversation with the girls because he's a pussy. I don't think the girls even notice sammy, they don't flirt with him or anything but then he all of a sudden claims posetion of them. i think he just is going through puberty in a really awkward way and doesn't know how to deal with it. this story kind of reminds me of how shy i used to be around girls and how silly it was, but it was a very important time in my life and every boys life, and how easy it is to think something without saying it.

At 8/10/2009 3:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found Sammy's descriptions humorous rather than offensive. In fact, the blatant sexism didn't even much occur to me until I familiarized myself with others' opinions of this story.

It is worth noting that I am a woman.

I think that a teen's interpretation of this story would greatly differ from an adult's. That is, the story means something different depending on whether the reader better relates to Sammy or Lengel... or the girls, for that matter.

The most important part of this story is not in Sammy's descriptions but in the care he takes to construct them versus his realization, at the end of the story, that his musings have been incredibly trivial in comparison to the "real" world. That is, in seeing his boss, Sammy sees the concerns of an adult versus those of a child. He quit a job his mother got him in a shirt his mother ironed. It is quite ironic that he pictures Queen's lifestyle as luxurious in comparison to his, as though she is a spoiled princess. Yet, Sammy is the spoiled princess. He seems to have no concept of responsibility and accountability until the end of the story when he walks away from the A&P, and turns around to look back at the register that he had imprudently deserted moments before. His job was surrendered to his superior, and Sammy seemed to realize that most people don't have the luxury of leaving their jobs on a whim.

Or maybe he was merely beginning to worry about what his mother would say to him when he arrived home a bit too early...


At 8/10/2009 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sammy quit his job for his principles, well that and to hopefully impress the girls. can you really blame a teenage boy for doing that. put yourself in sammys shoes, its summetime, your at a job that you probably dont want to be at and your boss who thinks to highly of himself and takes his position to seriously just yelled at 3 girls for the way they were dressed in a GROCERY STORE...who really cares what they are wearing. have you ever been at work and just felt like the next dumb thing that happens will just make you scream, well i think that quitting was sammys way of screaming. its not always that the things that we say are as important as or as meaningful as the things that we do.


At 8/10/2009 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sammy is just a normal guy. the only reason people thought he was mean or immature is cause his thought were out on display. Anyone who has worked in that type of setting knows that thinking funny things about people is how you make your day go by faster. I work in a place like that near school and think that type of stuff about you guys lol hahah. all in all i think Sammy is just a regular growing boy admiring the female form..--105

At 8/10/2009 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its interesting learning that the story ends with sammy just beginning his life into manhood. I would have never seen it like that unless someone pointed it out. It seems childish and a bit unexpected that he quits so abruptly and my mind wondered what was going to happen to him now. I questioned whether or not it was a smart decision, which is what John Updike is looking for, of course. And I thought it was and wasn't. On one hand, he needed to step out and get out of that job in order to go somewhere in his life. But on the other, he should have done it for the right reasons, and i don't agree that those girls were the right reasons.


At 8/10/2009 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story was intresting. Like many typical teenage american boys, they hate their jobs and love girls, and when they clash look out.

The conflict at the end of the story was great, even tho it was short live, because it shows that sometimes standing up for principles over rules means so much more then worrying about the out come as seen in the end.


At 8/19/2009 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this one...i can relate in more then just one way. I've been that guy sitting at the register ringing in people's food in hopes that a hot chick will walk down the aisle and flirt a little with you or something. Especially when you are ringing up mostly elderly women or house wives that look like they've never seen the day of light ever! but it is true just about every guy thinks about what they are going to say when that awsomely hot chick shows up and then all is silent. Some dudes have the balls but usually don't get anywhere and sometimes they do. 111

At 10/07/2009 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this story was a bit cute. I felt like I was Sammy, when he first seen the three girls. He made it believable to how some man, young man at that could truly be distracted. Sammy had all the descriptions laid out on the girls; from their hair colors to the trendy green two piece bathing suit. But Once you think about it, who in their right minds would wear a two piece to bathing suit to the market? ( laughing out loud)


At 10/07/2009 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sammy is the twenty something male working in the hellish world known as retail. Ofcoarse he is going to gaze at girls all day long, fantasizing. I'm sure he see the same zombie-like customers everday. I'm not surprised he left the A&P, though he may need to work on his skill of choosing girls to talk to.


At 10/12/2009 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this story was very interesting. couldn't figure out if he was stalking them or just curious about. i dont understand why he quit at the end just because of stupid girls without clothes on? and he walks out and basically realizes that he made a mistake. karma

At 10/18/2009 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked this poem b/c its funny in a numberous amount of ways because first of all , sammy wasn't focused on work at all and the lady was having a attitude and how his superior at work was using his mother as a threat and how the girls were kicked out of the store because the way they were dressed , I thought that was particular funny because you still can be kicked out from stores by the way your dress whether boy or girl

At 1/13/2010 2:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I have to say that this story made me both laugh but also cock my head to the side and say huh? Sammy has two sides, one noble and the other a normal teenage boy. I liked that he followed through with his quitting even though I think it was just to get those girls, Queenie in particular, to stick around and think about him. With him following through was symbolizing that he will stand up for what he believes in the future. It even alludes to that because of what he says in the end about how things would be later on. He is a normal teenage boy because he was checking out those girls and he wanted them to notice him like any other red-blooded young man would. The girls in the story made me laugh because I can picture it perfectly. My friends and I were like that. Granted it was two girls and a young man we still had our ‘Queen’ leading us. The story is about a young man’s rite of passage into his adult life. He was turning 19 soon and he had to decide if he would sit back and let things happen or if he would be a man that took charge and thought for himself. He set out on his path that day. -105

At 1/19/2010 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story made me think more about how other people probably think. No one can read anyone else's thoughts but Sam seems to have more then one side to him. Like everyone I'm sure he has his good and bad points but I think his "heroic" act of quitting was a little hot headed because he doesn't even know the girls that he sort of did this for and it didn't help him in anyway become closer to them. On the other hand it didn't really hinder him either, I mean now he is out of a summer job and his parents maybe a little upset with him but if he was really as sick of the manager as he seemed then the manager embarrassing those girls was that little push he needed to finally quit.


At 1/26/2010 12:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought this story was funny. It captured the thoughts of pretty much every guy. It may seem like he is objectifying women, and some might be angry or offended by it, but its pretty much what boys think about. Some of the things he says like women are not smart etc. doesn't mean he ACTUALLY thinks that. The whole losing is job thing was just bad judgement on his part which he got nothing out of.


At 2/02/2010 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sammy was young and probably had a hen-pecked mother. He decribes woman with a little contempt which makes me say that about his mother. He realizes he is alone when he leaves the dead in job out of rebellion to his parents. 121

At 2/08/2010 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that A & P show the typical mindset of teenagers and young adults, both male and female, all over the world. It allows you to see how the ripples caused by a tiny stone (the girls) can effect a body of water (Sammy's life). The happenings of this story allow Sammy to realize where he doesn't want his life to end up, stuck bagging grocreies for the rest of his existecne.

At 2/08/2010 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the courage that Sammy had at the time of quiting his job. I like the fact that he knew what his limit was, and that he would allow anyone to disrespect him. It shows his character. Even with the distraction of the girls he never lost sight. At the end he felt happy and satisfy with his choice and that's something that few people accomplish in life.

At 2/08/2010 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the courage that Sammy had at the time of quiting his job. I like the fact that he knew what his limit was, and that he would allow anyone to disrespect him. It shows his character. Even with the distraction of the girls he never lost sight. At the end he felt happy and satisfy with his choice and that's something that few people accomplish in life.

P.S. forgot to put my number that's why I'm doing it again. #120

At 2/09/2010 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PCT - I timeless story of teenage angst in a sexually repressive society. Sammy appears to be an isolated teen who quits his part time job to impress the ladies in a brash show of young horny teenager. Many people can relate to this story as it serves up a slice of "literary americana".

At 2/09/2010 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think that everyone in the store was over reacting in this story. Sammy is typical teenage boy, by the way the girls was dressed I believe the Sammy was thinking with the wrong body part. I think he over reacted or maybe it was hormones. I also think that the store manager over reacted with his approach to the girls and how they were dressed. Some teenagers don’t think before they react, however, I think that when Sammy got outside and didn’t see the girls he then realized what a mistake he made and how can he explain this to his mother.

At 2/09/2010 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this story. I think Sammy was expecting the girls to be waiting outside for him after he decided to quit his job. His boss is right he will most likely regret his decision but going back on what he said would have made him look even more stupid to the three girls. I think the manager could have been a lot nicer about confronting the girls with bathing suits on. Instead he made it so they will most likely never step foot in that store again. But what does he care if the three well off teenagers ever decide to come back, he doesn't even have to pay Sammy anymore.


At 2/09/2010 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

114 - PCT - I timeless story of teenage angst in a sexually repressive society. Sammy appears to be an isolated teen who quits his part time job to impress the ladies in a brash show of young horny teenager. Many people can relate to this story as it serves up a slice of "literary americana".

**reposted I had to find my number

At 2/09/2010 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally liked A & P by John Updike. I believe that Sammy represents a young adolescent male that is, unfortunately easy to relate to. Anyone that has had a summer job can relate to the fact that sometimes there happens to be attractive customers that stroll in. Although Sammy takes that statement to the next degree (relating the already scantily clad girls’ breasts to scoops of ice cream, and speaking of their weight and height), I believe that it helped prove the theme of the story. Despite the fact that there wasn’t a beach or pool for miles in the A&P Sammy worked in, the three girls strutted their way through it in their bikinis, looking for the food that their parents sent them there for. The other workers in the A&P further made the male species look bad in this story, by half drooling and gawking over the girls (despite the fact of being married, etc.). I believe the manager of the store represented the responsible adult in the story, having given the girls a problem for walking into the store the way they were dressed, and Sammy fulfilled his role as the naïve adolescent when he put himself up against his boss in defense to the girls and their demeanors when he hadn’t known a single thing about them. The story ends with Sammy leaving his job, knowing that his parents are going to be upset with him, having the idea that the girls would be outside waiting for him (like a knight in shining armor). To Sammy’s surprise, they left him standing out there like a fool to sit down and take the new responsibility of having to think about why he doesn’t have a job, and how he would explain it to his parents. -107

At 2/09/2010 7:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought A&P was a fantastic story. I really like the theme of standing up against the man, and sticking to your wits. This story is something many people can relate to, whether it be getting walked over all the time at your job or in school by teachers or other students. This story taught me that sometimes you need to stand up and say something if you feel strongly about something, and even though it might cost you, you atleast made a point for yourself. In conclusion this is story was an excellent read and I would recommend it highly for other curious readers.


At 2/16/2010 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this story. I feel like Sammy only judged the girls so hard because he was insecure and believed that they wouldn't be interested in him. I think a lot of people behave that way, especially at a younger age. Even at an older age I believe people are always judging other people, some just aren't outspoken about it.



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