A & P
By: John Updike

Overview/ Summary:

This story starts with a boy working in a grocery store in a small town. This small town is very closed minded community. When three girls come in wearing bathing suits into public it causes a ruckus in the store. The boy starts to takes interest in the girl who appears to be the leader. When the owner of the store says something to the girls about being in bathing suits, the boy decides to be a tragic hero type and quit his job in "honor" of the girls. The store owner tries to talk him out of it, but he wouldn't cave. He exits the store only to find that the girls had already left and he realizes that life is going to be harder now that he had quit his job for them.

Key Concepts/ Themes:

Updike's "A&P" is a prime example of the transition from childhood to adulthood that all humans must face. The first part of the story shows the audience just how simple and easy Sammy's life is. His boss has "been a friend of my [Sammy's] parents for years," and this is exactly how Sammy manages to get a job at the A&P grocery store (Updike 388). Sammy did nothing in order to earn this job for himself, instead he just relaxed because he knew his parents would get the job for him. This gives Sammy a childish nature because he simply is ignorant to the hardship of adulthood, when one must fend for himself. When the three girls enter the store in their bikinis, Sammy is introduced to an entire new world through the little difference of a lack of clothing. As Sammy's boss embarrasses the girls and kicks them out of the store, Sammy has a spine swell up inside of him. He takes his first stand as a man, instead of as a child, and quits his job. Though this might appear to be a childish, irrational, and rash decision, it is the complete opposite. Through the decision to stand up for the girls, Sammy grows up and "felt how hard the world was going to be to me [him] from hereafter" (Updike 389). This realization completes Sammy's transition from a child to an adult, and shows just how fast the transition can be made.

Important Symbols:

A&P by John Updike is rich in Symbolism. The first sentence reveals the first very important symbol- the girls in swimsuits. The swimsuits are representative of the complete disregard of the social standards and convictions of the town by the girl's wearing them. These girls and their attitudes are so foreign to Sammy and that is what draws him in.

Another symbol is the snacks her mother asked her to pick up. This lead Sammy to vision he didn't want to see. He saw a ritzy party and suddenly Queenie is more than a nickname it is a foreshadowing of her way of life.

Also, his quitting is a symbol of his breaking away from the monotony of his everyday life. It symbolizes his giving up on the town and moving on to something greater. His ascent into experience.

Important Characters:

There is really only one important character, Sammy. Sammy works at a grocery store, A & P, where he works on the cash register. Other characters included in the story are the three girls who walk in the store in their bathing suits. However, the girl who is discussed the most is the one, who in Sammy's eyes, appears to be the leader of the trio.



Updike, John. 1962. A&P. 9th ed. Pearson, 2008. 385-89. Print

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