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English 1102 - John Updike’s A&p Report

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Daizsha Smith

Christian Kraus

English 1102

10 November 2017


Society has standards and customs. People are born into their stations, grow up, and pass their positions in society on to their children. This constant cycle of conformation continues until someone is born with enough courage and determination to step out of their place in society and investigate the differing ways of life as opposed to their own. As in John Updike’s “A&P” the main character Sammy is the person who opens his eyes to the indignity of society.

Sammy, the narrator of John Updike’s A&P, describes an incident where he encounters a conflict between the members of two completely differing realms. One in which he was born into and the other of a girl who captures his interest and opens his mind to explore the other sides of society. Throughout the story Sammy’s thoughts, actions, and attitudes show that he is conflicted between the two worlds of society and his customers at the A&P.

On a summer day a nineteen-year old checker at the local A&P grocery store, Sammy, encounters three beautiful girls who unintentionally end up affecting his life. Sammy quietly tending to his duties at his third slot register, notices three young girls, scantily dressed in two-piece bathing suits and without shoes on their feet entering the store. As they roam through the aisles, Sammy observes the shared reactions of the customers to the group of young girls. He describes the onlookers as “sheep” in the quote, “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle-the girls were walking against the usual traffic…were pretty hilarious. You could see them, when Queenie’s white shoulder dawned on them, kind of jerk, or hop, or hiccup, but their eyes snapped back to their own baskets and on they pushed.” Updike describes this scene as the reactions and actions of the older customers seem to flock together in similarity. The girls, however, appear to be unique in every aspect of their beings. As they go against every morally correct aspect in the store with their bodies not properly covered as opposed to their properly dressed peers.

The girls are different, especially Queenie, and this is what grasps and holds Sammy’s attention. Queenie unknowingly is the personification of new world rebellion as she glides through the aisles of the A&P with the straps of the bathing suit falling around her shoulders. Updike describes the moment in which she captures Sammy’s eye as he says, “…what got me, the straps were down. They were off her shoulders looped around the cool tops of her arms…With the straps pushed off, there was nothing between 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.” He sees them and analyzes them in such detail that he can even notice the queen of the trio. Updike describes her in the quote, “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.” Sammy observes their movements and gestures around the store, meanwhile making grand assumptions about their personalities and their ways of life.



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