Symbolism in John Updike’s “A & P” Essay

John Updike’s short narrative “A & A ; P” recounts how an stripling supermarket teller named Sammy has his life changed everlastingly when three misss in bathing suits store in the shop where he works. He is the first individual storyteller who shapes the narrative with his descriptions. attitudes and sentiments. He is the supporter who grows up rapidly in a individual twenty-four hours and the lone unit of ammunition. to the full developed character in the narrative. As you proceed through the narrative and go acquainted with Sammy’s sentiments and thoughts. it becomes obvious that Sammy has made the lone pick that affords the possibility of existent joy and fulfilment in his hereafter. He is ready for a alteration.

Sammy’s life revolves around his occupation at a local A & A ; P supermarket in a little Massachusetts town North of Boston. The shop is located “right in the center of town” ( 99 ) and near “two Bankss and the Congregational church” ( 99 ) . Although the town is merely “five stat mis from the beach” ( 99 ) . “there’s people in this town haven’t seen the ocean for 20 years” ( 99 ) . The beach is for tourers and affluent visitants. non the townspeople. We see a really conservative community. puting their money for the hereafter and preparing for the following life. but non living or basking this one to any extent.

The shop is typical of a post-war A & A ; P with its fluorescent visible radiations. “checkerboard green-and-cream rubber-tile floor” ( 98 ) and “all those stacked packages” ( 98 ) . It’s a small shabby. merchandising “records at discount…gunk you wonder they waste the wax on… and plastic playthings done up in cellophane that fall apart when a child looks at them” ( 99 ) . There are seven “slots” for the tellers to work in and Sammy has to have on a uniform at work. a bow tie and apron. as do the other workers. The aisles are organized. like the “cat-and-dog-food-breakfast-cereal-macaroni-rice-raisins-seasonings-spreads-spagehetti-soft-drinks-crackers-and-cookies” ( 98 ) aisle. points pigeon-holed. but seemingly without any respect to an item’s single belongingss. The store’s organisation reflects the town’s organisation of its citizens. pressing conformance and cognizing your topographic point in typical middle-class American manner. The physical scenes show us the spirit of the town and the mentality of its dwellers.

Lengel. the director. is Sammy’s foreman and “has been a friend of his parents for years” ( 101 ) . He looks “old and gray” ( 101 ) to Sammy and as director. he spends his clip reasoning over bringings and concealing all twenty-four hours in his office. Sammy thinks “Lengel’s reasonably drab. Teachs Sunday school and the rest” ( 100 ) . His coworker. Stokesie. is twenty- two. merely 3 old ages older than Sammy. but he’s “married. with two babes chalked up on his fuselage already ” ( 99 ) and his highest hope is to be director himself someday. Life in Sammy’s town and at his socio-economic degree. doesn’t look peculiarly promising or exciting. Lengel and Stokesie are typical citizens. adhering to the political relations and accepted middle-class values of the town. ne’er rolling from what is expected of them.

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Sammy doesn’t think excessively much of his clients either. He describes one who has caught him doing a error as a “witch about 50 with paint on her zygomatic bones and no superciliums. and I know it made her twenty-four hours to trip me up” ( 97 ) . He refers to them as “sheep. ” ( 98 ) “houseslaves in pin rollers. ” ( 98 ) and “scared hogs in a chute” ( 101 ) . He thinks the clients appear so barren of spirit or imaginativeness. he bets you could put off dynamite in the shop and they would maintain shopping. They don’t appeal to him physically either since “they are normally adult females with six kids and varicose venas mapping their legs and cipher. including them. could care less” ( 99 ) .

But he does happen the three barely clothed beach-crowd misss who enter the supermarket barefoot and in bathing suits attractive. He spends considerable clip depicting their physical properties with adolescent involvement. He calls the first 1 Plaid because of her bathing suit design and describes her as “a chunky child. with a good sunburn and a sweet wide soft-looking can with those two crescents of white merely under it” ( 97 ) . Another he calls Large Tall Gooney and Tells us she has “one of those embonpoint berry-faces. the lips all bunched together under her nose…a tall 1. with black hair that hadn’t rather fizzed right. …and a mentum that was excessively long” ( 97 ) . But he is smitten with the miss he calls Queenie who appears to be the leader of the group.

He talks of her “long white prima-donna legs” ( 97 ) . straps that are “off her shoulders looped free around the cool tops of her arms” ( 98 ) so that “there was nil between the top of her suit and the top of her caput except her… I mean. it was more than merely pretty” ( 98 ) and with chests like “the two coolest scoops of vanilla I had of all time known were there” ( 101 ) . Age. physical features and frock aren’t the lone differences that he notices between the misss and the regular clients. The misss besides walk the shop aisles against the usual traffic form and the regular clients find that confusing. Obviously. these misss do non follow the societal conventions of the town.

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When the misss arrive at Sammy’s look into out counter he learns Queenie is purchasing herring in rancid pick for her female parent. Lengel. the director. taking notice of them. comes over and Tells them they are non at the beach and the shop wants them “decently dressed when they come in here” ( 100 ) . While the abashed misss defend themselves against Lengel’s continued unfavorable judgment. Sammy imagines Queenie’s house where the bites will be eaten. He “slid right down her voice into her life room. Her male parent and the other work forces were standing about in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the adult females were in sandals picking up herring bites on toothpicks off a large home base and they were all keeping drinks the colour of H2O with olives and branchlets of batch in them” ( 100 ) . He compares this scene to his household where “when my parents have somebody over they get lemonade and if it’s a existent racy matter Schlitz in tall spectacless with “They’ll Do It Every Time” sketchs stenciled on” ( 100 ) . He’s get downing to recognize there are other ways to populate in the universe beside the middle-class 1 he grew up with.

As the misss exit the shop. Sammy rises to their defence and Tells Lengel he didn’t have to abash them like that. But Lengel answers “It was they who were abashing us” ( 101 ) . This difference of sentiment is symbolic of the differences that exist between Sammy and his town. friends. and household. About without believing. Sammy says “I quit” ( 101 ) . Lengel cautiousnesss Sammy “you don’t privation to make this to your Mom and Dad” ( 101 ) . seeking to maintain him in line in the same paternalistic manner he chided the misss for their garb. But Sammy’s head is made up and it seems to him “that one time you begin a gesture it’s fatal to non travel through with it” ( 101 ) . Finally understanding who he is and what he wants to go. Sammy removes his tie and apron. clouts in No Sale on the registry and walks out the door. Lengel says “You’ll feel this for the remainder of your life” ( 101 ) . Sammy hears Lengel’s last words but is willing to accept “how hard the universe was traveling to be…hereafter” ( 102 ) .

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The subject appears to be that life is a invariably ramifying way. that the picks we make have a monetary value. and any pick can be both a approval and a expletive. Sammy has chosen a route less traveled. a freer. perchance more exciting and interesting life. one that rejects propertyless modus operandis and values. But he can’t ignore the fact that he doesn’t have a occupation. the misss are gone. and they would likely non be interested in him anyhow. There are those who will take the traditional way: predictable. safe. but really limited. And there are the Sammy’s who will take their opportunities on individuality and growing even with the possible economic and societal costs. In the concluding analysis. it seems that Sammy was already unhappy and disgruntled with his life and the misss were merely an alibi he was looking for. Sammy is given the chance to take a life other than the one he’s been expected to take. Although life may be more hard for Sammy. his options are greater. his destiny no longer predetermined. and he now has the freedom and will to make up one’s mind his ain hereafter.

Plants Cited

Kirszner. Laurie G. . and Stephen R. Mandell. explosive detection systems. Literature: Reading. Reacting. Writing.

Compact 4th erectile dysfunction. Boston: Heinle & A ; Heinle. 2000.

Updike. John. “A & A ; P. ” Kirszner and Mandell 97-102.