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He has no respect for the customers and is looking for an opportunity to quit, which is not so easy to do because it would disappoint his parents: “Sammy must, therefore, remain an employee until he can find a reason to justify his quitting. a young man who takes full advantage of an opportunity to free himself from the responsibility-filled life that he desperately wants to avoid.” Also writing in (Summer 2003), Harriet Blodgett takes the view that the imagery in the story suggests that the three girls are being presentedplayfully “as temptresses who lead Sammy astray.” By this she does not mean the traditional Sirens who lure sailors to their destruction but “creatures who had fish bodies and so came to be seen as mermaids and above all as symbols of seduction.” Blodgett points to the abundance of “ocean imagery” in the story, “from the Atlantic and Pacific (Markets) setting to the . .‘Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks.’” She also notes that the girls wear bathing suits “and naturally they do not ‘even have shoes on.’”Blodgett quotes Sammy’s description of Queenie, who “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.” Blodgett comments, “as one might do, wearing flippers.” 2.Though masking his actions as chivalry, Sammy uses the girls; for they act as catalysts that precipitate his well-considered decision to resign.” Thompson concludes that Sammy is not “a hero, but rather . What part does romantic attraction and sexual desire play in the story?
So in a way he’s saying hold off to all this, and he’s in a kind of limbo.
But he does feel, yes, that the world, the world does not forgive easily. He has become a quitter, a quixotic quitter, you could say.” Updike also comments on the story in a videointerview with Donald M. He describes Sammy as “a typical well-intentioned American male trying to find his way in the society and full of good impulses.” He also notes that, as shown by what Queenie buys and how she talks about her parents, she is of a higher social class than Sammy, so the story takes on the element of “blue-collar kid longing for a white-collar girl.” This “element of social inequality” had Updike wondering to what extent Sammy’s “gesture of quitting has to with the fact that she is rich and he is poor.” (Taking up this point, most readers would likely think that given Queenie’s higher social class, and her awareness of it, she would be unlikely to beinterested in a mere grocery store clerk, although Sammy, optimistic as young men tend to be when pursuing a girl, likely does not realize this.) In this interview, Updike reiterates the notion that Sammy will find life hard after this incident becauseit will be known in this small town that he quit his job, and people will not admire him for it.
Such an incident, if it should occur, would likely turn heads now as it did then, and also inflame the passions of young men.
However, some small details in the story give some clues that it was in fact written in a different era from the present. He is only twenty-two years old yet is already a married man with two children, which likely means that he married very young indeed, perhaps around the age of twenty.
Maybe he will be able to strike up a conversation with her outside the store! “A&P” is the most well-known of Updike’s hundreds of stories, and he was often asked about it.
But alas, she and her friends are gone, and Sammy’s sudden dream of romantic and sexual adventure fades on the spot. Jeffrey Brown interviewed him for PBS in December 2003 (available from and Updike mentioned that the origin of the story lay in a real incident, when he was in a store and saw “several girls in bathing suits cruising the aisles, and it was sufficiently startling that it stuck in my mind because although girls in bathing suits at the beach were one thing, girls in bathing suits and bare feet—bare feet on those well-trod tiles—all that sort of made, seemed to make a germ of the story.” When Brown asked Updike about the last line of the story, in which Sammy realizes “how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter,” Updike explained that in the final paragraph as a whole the reader gets“a glimpse of the adult life that he has momentarily put at risk; that is, the Lengels of the world, face grimly going through the necessary task of manning the slot that he has abandoned, and then the vision of married life, of the young mother with her squalling, greedy, candy-crazed child out on the hot parking lot.I mean, it was more than pretty.” In other words, he is aroused by the sight, and, more than this, it is likely that he is not content simply to admire from afar.When she reaches the cash register, he notes that there is no ring on her finger, and one can just imagine him calculating his chances with her and trying to figure out a way in.In the 1950s and early 1960s in the United States people did marry much younger than they do today.In 1956, the average age for men to marry was 22.5, compared to 29 in the 2010s, the highest it has ever been.(Updike himself married in 1953 at the age of 21, while he was still in college.) Also, it might strike a contemporary reader as odd to find two young men working at the cash register in the store. In those days, however, there were fewer women in the workforce than there are today.Women usually left the workforce when they got married and had children.“A&P” has a universal and somewhat timeless appeal, and in many ways it is as fresh now as when Updike first wrote it, over half a century ago.People today still push their carts around supermarkets, and it would still be unusual to see three girls in bathing suits in such a place.Right from the first moment he sees the girls, he cannot take his eyes off them.He is so startled and discombobulated at the sight of them that he cannot remember whether he has rung up a customer’s purchase or not.