New Begging in John Updike’s Story “A&P”

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John Updike’s story “A&P” talks about a young nineteen-year man named Sammy. He is the main protagonist of this story and the narrator. He works as a cashier at the local grocery store, the A&P; A job that his parents got for him. Sammy is an opinioned, sarcastic, disaffected young man with a nice sense of humor. He observes people that walk in and out from his register. However, seeking his identity and pride, Sammy is led into a series of actions that will change his life. 

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The story begins with Sammy being on his shift at A&P and a group of three girls walk in with their bathing suit on. Sammy is a sharp observer with a healthy interest in opposite sex. He observes in every detail the physical appearance of these three girls. Sammy goes beyond the outer details to glean insights for the people he observes. For example, after noticing Queenie’s hanging bra straps, he begins creating an image of her personality. When he hears the girls speak, his image becomes even more detailed as he is able to get an impression of Queenie’s social status. 

Sammy’s observations and descriptions reveal his own personality as well. Is natural for a guy to have attraction toward girl the way Sammy does, however this shows a sense of immaturity. He is dismissive and disrespectful towards the “A&P” customers, he calls them “sheep” and “houseslaves”. Sammy realizes that in the eyes of the rich, Queenie, he must seem like Stokesie and his manager Lengel. He wants to set himself apart from them; This desire to prove he is different leads him to quit his job. 

He tells “I quit” to his manager primarily because he wants the girls to hear and notice him. However, he realizes that they didn’t notice, he proceeds to press “no sale” and leave. Even if he failed to be noticed it was a question of pride. He wanted to stand up for what he believes and tells Lengel “you didn’t have to embarrass them”. 

Once Sammy leaves the store it seems less wise to him as he is left a vague guilt and doubt about his actions. Sammy’s desire for Queenie, which begins merely as a young man’s interest in a pretty girl, ends up as a desire for escape from the A&P and, in effect his own life. He wanted to have a life more like Queenie, a life of sophisticated parents, summer vacations, and the freedom to disregard places like “A&P”, makes him go beyond his limited life.  

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