Descriptionand Interpretation of Sammy’s Traits in A&P
John Updike’s A&P is a modest account of Sammy (the narrator),a young grocery worker and his encounter with three adolescent girlsin the midsummer. The short story offers a perfect exemplification ofthe undulations of change through the workings of Sammy who fight thesystem in trifling ways, but eventually make a big move to correcthis life and gain some freedom. Updike accounts the smallinsubordinate acts by Sammy against the subtle disparity of power andthus provides a foretaste into the inspirations of Sammy (Saldivar215). In fact, Updike presents Sammy’s rebellious acts, differentthinking, and interest in girls, disdain, disaffection, and aprofound observational sense throughout the short story. In thisregards, the discussion offers a description and interprets thecharacter traits of Sammy by providing instances in the story as wellas linking the instances to other pieces of literature.
Sammy is a fascinating, dynamic protagonist and a typical young malewho has a profound observational sense and attentiveness for theopposite sex. In fact, his interest in the three teenage girls andhis description of their traits as well as other people based ontheir physical appearance depicts him as superficial, and irrational(Saldivar 215). From the time, the girls arrive in the store untilSammy leaves the store, his cognizance is engaged with the daringnessof the girls. Coupled with his critical examination of the girls, hecategorizes the girls according to their physical appearance.However, Sammy describes the girls in a vulgar way for example, herefers to their breasts as melons and wonders whether they havemarbles that rattle around or brains in their skulls. As Sammywatches them, he defines their bodies in detail giving away hisprodigious sexual sentience and gets distracted from his work. Infact, Stearns, Sandlin, and Burdick assert that Sammy is sodistracted by the girls that he rings an old bat’s piece two timesand makes her cross (400). Elsewhere, Blodgettsays that Sammy observes everything around him and drinks in suchdetails to glean insights about people (236). Sammy observes the wayQueenie attires the fastenings on her swimsuit, the way she carriesherself, her lengthy prim-donna legs, the long neck, and the oakyhair. Sammy’s profound observational sense is seen when he labels,“this one with one of those chubby berry-faces… the kind of girlother girls think is very striking and attractive but never quitemakes it…, which is why they like her so much,” (Updike 363).This instance shows Sammy’s carnal inclination. In fact, hisinclinations and interest reveal well when he says that he adoreswhat he perceives even though the chick is bumpy and her butt is softand voluptuous (Dessner 315). His fervor for the girls heightens asthey pass him repeatedly, and his observational sense plays againwhen he speculates which passageway the girls would pop next.
On the other hand, Sammy is a prejudiced, sarcastic young man whocomments on the superficiality of people and emphasizes theirignorance. According to Dessner, Sammy’s prejudice and sarcasmshows clearly when he suggests that shoppers would keep checking forgroceries even if dynamites were to go off (316). However, Sammy’sprejudice is more than mere observational sense or interest as heemphasizes the superficiality of people in a sarcastic and diversemanner. For example, when an elderly woman bothers him for ringingher item twice, he likens her to a pig and describes her as a ‘witchabout fifty’ and asserts that is she had been born at the correctperiod they would have charred her over in Salem. Such acts revealSammy’s prejudice, which goes beyond the normal sense of sarcasm orrebellion. However, looking at the society keenly, Sammy does notcome out as a disrespectful and rude young man, but rather as anopinionated man. In fact, it reveals his derision for the restrictednature of the generation existent in the society (Michelle18). His disdain for the society also comes into play when hedescribes the shoppers as ‘sheep’, which is in itself anextension of his opinionated nature. However, this scornful anddismissive nature towards the shoppers reveals his immaturity
Perhaps, Sammy’s feeling of passion for the girls provide theavenue for his rebellious acts. Sammy’s manager rebukes the girlsfor entering his Puritan domain to which he develops a sense ofrebellion, which ultimately makes him leave the store as he sees thegirls as the unguent of the crop from a nearby rich neighborhood(Michelle 16). When Sammy quits his job, hedoes so on the backdrop of the treatment the girls receive fromLengel the manager when he tells the girls, “You should be decentlydressed…, this isn’t the beach,” (373). However, the society’sestablished code and work ethic allow Sammy to turn in the offensivedirection and demands his freedom. In fact, by trying to win theaffection of Queenie by quitting, Sammy’s rebellious nature comesto the forefront- as he is tired of the constrictive nature of hiswork (Blodgett 236). In the beginning ofthe story, Sammy comes out as an immature young man, but thesechanges towards the end of the story when his motivation comes intoplay. Porter asserts that Sammy’s immaturity in the beginning ofthe story is exemplified by the way he terms the store as a ‘pinballmachine.’ (1156). However, as the story progresses so does hisbehavior matures and his behavior becomes erudite. The staff andshoppers’ treatment of the girls disgust him and he does not wantto be linked with such a gross appreciation of the teenage girls ashe wants to ponder that he is interested to the girls beyond thecarnal lust. In fact, Stearns et al assert that when Sammy quits hisjob, it reveals his change in thinking to that of sublime (401).Sammy’s resigning from his job offers the culmination of the powerhierarchy that exists in a society and people’s resolve to seektheir independence. Coupled with the motivation to endear himself toQueenie and the desire to resists the tradition ethics of authority,Sammy decides to quit seek his freedom.
A&P offers a classic instance of change and pursuance of change(Saldivar 215). Sammy changes from an immature to a mature characterin the story through fantasy, irrational behavior, and people’ssuperficiality. However, it is the established and imposing hierarchyethic of power that allows Sammy to mature. Through his opinionated,sarcastic, and different thinking, Sammy provides a change from theestablished and conservative setting to a fantasy setting set onmotivations and imagery.
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Blodgett, Harriet. "Updike`s A&P." TheExplicator 61.4 (2003): 236-237.Web. 6 July 2015
Michelle, V. "Interpreting “Araby” and“A&P” through the discourse of power. “PublicationsOboulo. com (2013). Print.
Porter, M. Gilbert. "John Updikes "A&P": TheEstablishment and an Emersonian Cashier."English Journal 61.8(1972): 1155-1158. Web. 6 July 2010.
Saldivar, Toni. "The art of John Updike`s" A&P"." Studiesin Short Fiction 34.2 (1997): 215. Print.
Stearns, Jennie, Jennifer A. Sandlin, and Jake Burdick. "Resistanceon Aisle Three?: Exploring the Big Curriculum of Consumption and the(Im) Possibility of Resistance in John Updike’s “A&P”." CurriculumInquiry 41.3 (2011): 394-415. Print.
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