To what extent would one go to fake something they are not. In John Updike’s short story, A&P, the narrator, Sammy, demonstrates a couple of actions as a way to impress three teens. Sammy begins by disregarding store policy, he then labels the teens, and lastly, he quits his job. The setting is used as a way of pretending he has an authoritative position.
The short story takes place on a Thursday afternoon, five miles away from the beach at a grocery store. Three young women walk into the store in bathing suits with no shoes one. This is unusual because the rules to most stores require clothing and shoes. Instead of approaching them to address the dress code he stands there admiring their every detail. From their appearance, to the way they move, and their choice in food selection. The way their attire was positioned on them was what distracted him most. “What got me was her straps were down. They were off her shoulder…” He was distracted that he began to mess up on what he was doing, causing a customer to complain. Even though Sammy was watching, his coworker Stokeskie was married and felt uncomfortable with the teen’s presence. He tried looking away asking Sammy if it was over. Stokeskie tried to point out that the store being five miles away, there was no excuse in walking into the store without clothes, and ordinary girls think to put some on before stepping out of a car and onto the streets. By ignoring the story policy and Stokeskies’s point about the distance of the store, Sammy was trying to prove that he was careless and in control of the store.
While Sammy stood around watching the girls pick out their groceries he described each of them. The first girl was described as chunky and pail. Not much attention or description was given to her. The second friend was described as tall with dark hair she is attractive to others but tries to keep her looks unseen. The third girl was the most attractive to Sammy. The way he described her was as not too tall, the “queen” or leader of the group. He began by describing their physical appearances and then tried to read their mind. The label and naming of character gave an impression of a controlling authority. It is ironic because not only did he label the girls he also described his coworker Stokeskie. The way he described him was harsh and out of jealousy. Sammy described him as a manager want to be. “I forgot to say that he thinks he’s going to be manger some sunny day…” When in reality he was the one that wanted to take on that position. The customer that complained about his mistake when ringing her up was also given a label. Sammy described her as a “cash register watcher, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows…” He believes that his mistake was actually a good thing for her because it was amusing to have been able to catch that.The choice of register’s also gave a hint at the fact that Sammy believed there was something better about him then those that work with him. He mentioned that Stokeskie attracts older customers. The girls walked over to his register thinking he was superior.
Lastly, Sammy’s manager the actual character with authority approaches the girls about their inappropriate attire. Lengel had been hassling with a delivery truck, we find out he is the manager after the room he marched into is described with the title name. He has a background in the church therefore not only is the store policy important to him, but the church perspective was also key in his decision. “This isn’t the beach” was his go to line, the girls begin to explain that they were sent by queenies mother for one thing making a point that they were not there for long. Lengel tells them that it makes no difference and that they should be dressed decently when they go in. After getting answered back he finally decides to mention the policy something that took so long for anyone to mention. Sammy proceeds to check them out and the girls head out. Without thinking it over Sammy quits on the spot hoping the girls heard him as a way to show that he was in control of himself and that no one embarrasses him. By the time he took off his apron and had a last talk with Lengel about how he would not want to disappoint his parents. Sammy walks out in search of the girls but they were no longer in sight. He was left alone and jobless.
The ending of the short story had its major plot twist. After sacrificing himself in order to make himself look good in front of the teen’s things did not turn out too well. His actual authoritative figure in the store is disappointed with his decision. His actions were unnoticed because the girls were nowhere around to see it. He no longer has a job and is looked down at by customers around. Instead of looking “good” he appears as a bad person now.
It is important to acknowledge your position and where you stand. In order to obtain something better you must work for it and be less judgmental. Talking about others and going against those that know what is right will only lead to failure.
John Updike’s short story demonstrates that being too ambitious for power and control can lead to terrible consequences. He does this through his short story, A&P. The narrator Sammy’s actions are directed towards three female customers that walk in with distracting attire. He disregards the story policy, begins slacking in his job, labels everyone around him and lastly, quits a job he most likely got through his parents. This can be inferred by the end of the short story where it is mentioned that Lengel manager of the story, whom is also family friend insists that he does not quit.