A&P by John Updike

 

     I find Sammy’s depiction as an unhappy A&P employee, a crucial element in the story. It portrays through Sammy’s frustration, his adolescent psychology, way of thinking, role-models, idealism, emotional fervor, all at the same time.

    While Sammy is accused of quitting his job for childlike, immature reasons, the reason in fact runs deeper. His quitting the job was neither spontaneous, nor ridiculous. Sammy’s inferiority complex, his frustration and his aspirations were building on for a long time. 

    While his feelings on Queenie may be that of a typical 19-year teenager, a deeper reading actually points to the complexity of his thoughts. Queenie compels him to think: “do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?”.  The contrast in fact highlights his frustration.

     His physical lust for Queenie apart, he wanted to belong to her class and to her kind. As his aspirations and frustration had been building on for long enough, here was his last chance to act. The location of the shop “two banks…three congregational church…newspaper store…three real-estate offices…”(P-866) represents the real world of freedom while his job as a cashier represents the trap he finds himself in. His comments on customers as ‘sheep’ and ‘cash-register-watchers’ shows his introverted character. Mr. Lengel, the manager is authoritative and distant while Sammy is free-spirited and non-conformist in outlook. After leaving the job, he realized, “how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter”(P-869).  Sammy, in fact deserves more research.           

 

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