In A&P, John Updike tells a story about an almost nineteen-year-old cashier named Sammy. Sammy works at a grocery store, A&P, and is tired of his small town homogeneity. In a town where everything is the same, the days grow old and boring until a particular Thursday when three girls catch Sammy’s eye. These girls create a significant dynamic change in Sammy’s character when he tries to impress the leader, Queenie, and ultimately defies his boss and quit his job. In the beginning, Sammy’s character is very juvenile and judgemental. You can tell he has a juvenile state of mind by the way he describes customers as he sees them. He talks about the “cash-register-watcher”(239) he illustrates this woman as a “witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows”(239). Instead of just owning up to the fact that he accidentally rang up the box of crackers twice due to not paying attention, he makes fun of this woman and goes on to say if she were born in Salem she would have been burned.
The remarks that he makes about this woman show how he feels about not only her but his entire town. He continues to call the shoppers of A&P “sheep”(240) and even calls the housewives “house slaves”(240). The disparaging terms he uses for the shoppers show that Sammy is far too childish and juvenile. These comments are from Sammy’s own frustration with his life, how he lives, and where he lives. He does not want to be stuck in this town forever and become the manager like his friend Stoksie aspires to be. Stoksie is already married and has kids but is only 3 years older than Sammy. Sammy claims the only difference between him and Stoksie is the marriage and kids, this scares him because it is like he is staring at his future. The turning point for Sammy is when Queenie comes up to checkout. Lengel sees her and brings up the fact that “this isn’t the beach”(241). Queenie and her friends came into the store wearing their bathing suits. Queenie catches Sammy’s eye the most with her “oaky hair”(240) and “pink-beige maybe- bathing suit with a little nubble on it”(239). The thing that caught his eye the most is that Queenie had her straps on her shoulders, when her “shoulder bones tilt in the light”(239) Sammy finds it “more than pretty”(239). Sammy dives into Queenie’s extravagant life when he pictures her mother and father in the living room eating herring snacks and standing around in “ice cream coats”(241). He compares her life to his own where guests get lemonade and if it is really special, “tall glasses with ‘theyll do it every time’ cartoons stenciled on”(241).
As Queenie and Lengel bicker, Sammy realizes that Queenie must think the the people at A&P look “pretty crummy”(241). Sammy does not want to be lumped in with the crummy people of A&P and when he sees the girls are in a rush to leave he decides to quit. He is hoping the girls will hear and even repeats himself, but never receives a response from the girls. The big change in Sammy is after he quits his job, the audience can see that Sammy realizes what happened and can see him go from juvinele to a sensible adult. He comes to the understanding that his decision was rash and not in his best interest. He even agrees when Lengel says “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your mom and dad”(241). This is when Sammy has the most interel conflict with himself. He knows what is right and what is wrong, he is experiencing a Man Vs Self complex and has to ultimately decide to go through with his decision to quit. Sammy claims that the situation is too “fatal not to go through with it”(241) and leaves his bowtie and apron and walks out of the A&P.
Sammy decides in this moment that he will not be like the rest of his town, he will not be like the rest, and he will step out into the world with a fresh look on things, no one said it would be easy. He comes to terms with this when he said: “my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter”(242). This really shows the sign of Sammy’s sensibility and change of character. In this story we watch Sammy grow from a juvinele cashier to an unemployed adult. The three girls that walked into A&P that Thursday, changed Sammy by getting him to see a new side of things and quit his job. Seeing Queenie and imaging her lavish lifestyle leaves Sammy wanting more from Queenie and he will do whatever it takes to find a place in that world. This means quitting his job. Sammy has an interal conflict with himself and ultimately decides quitting is the best decision. Although he never got the attention from Queenie that he wanted, he changed as a person and has a new life to look forward to.