Topic: Essays

Last updated: April 6, 2019

In author John Updike’s well known, most diverse, and most often taught short story, “A&P”, I was granted a front row seat to a painfully yet eventful part of a young 19-year-old man’s life. The eventful coming of age of protagonist Sammy a good-natured, average boy with a vague preference for beauty, liberty, youth, and recklessness. Updike guided me on a tour through the young teenage boy’s memory. A memory that involves the immature choices and consequences that life can suddenly throw at us when we do not have a considerate amount of time to think about reckless decisions. In the short story”A&P” John Updike illustrates the theme of maturity through Sammy’s judgmental attitude, gross and sexist thoughts.In the first few pages of “A&P”. Sammy childishly makes hasty judgments about everyone he sees like his judging a book by its cover while never even attempting to look beneath their surfaces, or even try to get to know them before judging them.

He frequently refers to the customers as sheep pushing their carts down the rows moving around together as a giant heard. This shows that Sammy thinks very little of his customers believing that they are dim-witted, and just following a day-to-day routine. Immediately after this, he goes on to judge someone for berating him.

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“I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell. She’s one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows” (359). He proceeds to make a very harsh remark once this customer begins to leave, “By the time I got her feathers smoothed and her goodies into a bag — she gives me a little snort in passing” (359). This demonstrates the typical aggressive paranoia often seen in immature children.

The second piece of evidence I found that shows Sammy’s immaturity is his gross and sexist thoughts. Beginning with his detailed descriptions of the three girls in bikinis focusing on just their physical characteristics, mainly on their breasts and behinds. Plaid’s “soft looking can” symbolism for her behind, and on Queenie’s “two scoops of vanilla” symbolism for her breast (361,362).

In literally mere seconds he just reduced these three innocent girls to nothing but pieces of meat. Even some of the nicknames he gives out are very biased and sexist like when he calls all the females in the store “house slaves” (362) I interpreted this as him believing that women have one purpose in life and nothing, but to be below men, and not equal. Many people argue that its okay for Sammy to have a judgemental attitude and gross sexist thoughts about other people. Arguing that it’s okay for him to act this way because they think of him as the hero because he stood up for the girls when they were confronted by his boss Lengel for wearing bikinis inside the store. Admittedly I can see where they are coming from and will agree that Sammy believes himself to be a hero.

However, that doesn’t okay the fact that Sammy judges and thinks gross sexist thoughts about other people.In conclusion, I believe that from this experience Sammy lacks maturity and is not a young mature adult like he believes himself to be in the story. Instead, I believe that because of his judgmental attitude, gross and sexists thoughts it cost him everything his job and Queenie. In the end, I think he learned and left contemplating about what to do with his life. Only one thing’s for certain Sammy’s got a lot left to learn before he really matures.


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