In the story “A&P,” by John Updike, the main character Sammy makes the leap from an adolescent, knowing little more about life than what he has learned working at the local grocery store, into a man prepared for the rough road that lies ahead.
As the story begins, Sammy is nineteen and has no real grasp for the fact that he is about to be living on his own working to support himself. Throughout the course of the story, he changes with a definite step into, first, a young man realizing that he must get out of the hole he is in and further into a man, who has a grasp on reality looking forward to starting his own family.Order now
In the beginning, Sammy is but a youth growing up learning what he knows about life in small town grocery store. His role models include, Stokesie, the twenty-two year-old, supporting a family doing the same job Sammy does yet aspiring to one day have the manager’s position, and Lengel, the store manager who most certainly started out in the same place that Stokesie and he were already in. Stoksie, the great role model, continues to be as adolescent as Sammy, with his “Oh, Daddy, I feel so faint,” and even Sammy sees this noting that “as far as I can tell that’s the only difference between he and I.” Sammy whittles away his days looking at pretty girls and thinking about the ways of people.
He hardly realizes that this is how he will spend his entire existence if he doesn’t soon get out of this job. During this day that will prove to change his life, he makes the step towards his realization. He decides that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life working at an A&P competing for the store manager’s position. Sammy thinks to himself about his parent’s current social class and what they serve at cocktail parties.
And, in turn, he thinks about what he will be serving, if he stays at the A&P, “When my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it’s a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with ‘They’ll Do It Every Time’ cartoons stenciled on.” He must get out and the sooner the better.
He is still just an adolescent who hasn’t completely thought through his decision and yet his mind is made up. He quits his job using the girls merely as an excuse to get out. His final journey to manhood is a short one. He looks around for his girls and notices that they have already left, but he knew that was a futile cause to begin with. And he steps outside to see the world and its opportunities as well as its responsibilities in front of him.
Although, Sammy could see “how hard the world would be hereafter,” he knew that what was done had to be done.
In hindsight, Sammy still knew he had done the right thing as shown by “Now here comes the sad part of the story…but I don’t think it’s so sad myself.”