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A & P: A Story About Growing Up

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A & P: A Story About Growing Up

Jon Borges

Eng. 100

March 17, 2006

A & P: A Story About Growing Up

Written in 1956 by subject narration author, John Updike, “A&P”, presents the story of a nineteen-year-old boy, Sammy, who over time comes to realize the painful reality of life. Sammy, who despises his insipid job as a checkout boy, works at the local “A&P” mini-mart. Undoubtedly, having worked there for much to long, Sammy, finally says enough is enough, and quits his job. This story’s theme revolves around a teenage boy’s transition from boyhood to early adulthood, and the gradual change in three of his main character traits from: imaginative to practical, conservative to experimenting, and non-assertive, to assertive.

Young Sammy almost certainly began his career at “A&P” with enthusiasm and prospect, as would most. He thought his job had a future. However, as the reader starts into the story, they become aware that the assumed former feelings are long gone, and that a new pessimistic and practical feeling has replaced the old. Sammy realizes that no worthwhile future will ever come from working at the mini-mart. Sammy states during a conversation with his co-worker and friend, Stoskie, as they attentively watch the three young girls wander about the store without direction, “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” (Updike 222). This cynical reflection on his partner’s naпve optimism on one-day becoming manager reflects Sammy’s transition from his assumed imaginative or prospective demeanor to a more pragmatic and pessimistic conclusion that “A&P” is a dead end.

Sammy represents the paradigm of your typical middle class, conservative, rule following, good boy. His mom makes his lunch and irons his shirts, and even Mr. Lengel, the store manager, makes a comment to demonstrate this. Mr. Lengel, says during his punitive spiel to Sammy as Sammy informs him of his decision to quit, “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your Mom and Dad” (Updike 226). This reveals to the reader a Sammy whom is supposed to be the perfect little boy who doesn’t want to disappoint Mommy and Daddy. Towards the end of the story, however, Sammy exhibits an experimenting behavior contrary to that of a conservative, by whimsically acting in a “take a chance and see what happens” sort of way as he quits his job. In the last sentence of the story, Sammy says:

“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’d just had an injection of

Iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going

to be for me hereafter” (Updike 226).

Sammy’s apprehension of a future unknown becomes apparent as he walks out of the “A&P” for the last time after quitting. The once conservative good little boy is now a young man in a harsh world.

Much more so than normal, Sammy struck me as an unusually non-assertive character. In the story’s opening paragraph, Sammy deals with a disgruntled customer that he calls a “cash-register watcher”,

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