A & P by John Updike Book Review
When we are young, we make mistakes that we later regret. At a young age, we do not quite know what is wrong or right until we do it and face the consequences. Despite this, there are also adults who make mistakes, but they face the responsibility that comes with it. In the short story of "A & P" by John Updike, it deals with Sammy deciding to quit his job to impress a young woman but ends up being alone in a parking lot. Throughout the story, we can see Sammy's thoughts and actions which pushes him for the action that he took, which then brings him into adulthood. In the story "A & P", the author uses setting, imagery, and irony to show how a young person's desire can lead to his downfall.
Sammy does not have a fulfilling life; he hates his job, and he comes from a lower/middle class family. He feels he is wasting his time in this place. During his shift, he was scanning some items, while he was doing so he got distracted by the girls wearing the swimsuit and caused him to forget what he was doing, "I stood there with my hand on a box of Hiro crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. 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, and I know it made her day to trip me up. She'd been watching cash registers forty years and probably never seen a mistake before" (par.1). He works in a small grocery store in which he spends all day screening orders for customers. The workplace where he is at is very boring and his mind wanders off. From the time he is at work, he is so bored, which causes him to screen some items twice because he sometimes forgets to do it. After working in this store for so long, he is bored and now he gets very distracted, he is so bored at this job that after a long day he starts to her songs come out of the cash register, "I go through the punches, 4, 9, GROC, TOT It's more complicated than you think, and after you do it often enough, it begins to make a little sung, that you hear words to, in my case "Hell (bing) there, you (gung) happy per-pul (splat)" the splat being the drawer flying out" (par 21). Sammy's work is very tedious that he eventually starts hearing songs from the cash register. He hopes to eventually become a manager. Sammy feels so miserable in this job that the fact that once these girls showed up, it brings happiness to him. As Sammy is charging Queenie for her purchase, he gets lost within the looks of her and starts describe her body, "I uncrease the bill, tenderly as you may imagine, it just having come from between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla I had ever know were there, and pass a half and penny into her narrow pink palm, and nestle the herrings in a bag and twist its neck and hand it over, all the time thinking" (par.21). He is aware that the girls are from a higher class society, which is everything that he wants to be. He wishes to be everything like them: self-confident and independent. Seeing these girls, he dreams of having a luxurious life in which he does not have to worry about anything which seems impossible. Seeing these young girls, he wishes to have to have the same freedom and lifestyle, but is impossible since he is stuck in his small world.
Sammy sees these young girls entering the supermarket, and once he sees them, their physical appearance has captured his attention which causes him to imagine his life with them. As the girls walk through the aisles, he directs his attention towards one of them, "...there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of the suit and the top of her head expect her, this clean bare plane of the top her chest down the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal in the light"( par. ). Sammy uses the metaphor of comparing her chest to a dented sheet of metal in order to create an imagery that characterized Queenie. Sammy also uses another metaphor that is describing her chest as a clean bare plane which also helps give a better physical description of how she looks. As the girls were entering the store, Sammy discovers the girl of his dreams, "She was the queen. She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn't look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima donna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didn't walk in her bare feet that much, putting down her heels and then letting the weight move along to her toes as if she was testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it" (par. 21). Sammy adirmes Queenie based on how she carries herself out in the crowd. He is drawn to her self confidence and pride. "She had on a kind of dirty pink - beige maybe, I don't know -- bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down. They were off her shoulders looped loose around the cool tops of her arms, and guess as a result the suit had slipped a little on her, so all around the top of the cloth there was this shining rim" (par. 3). Sammy is immediately seduced by the physical appearance of Queenie. This shows how his shallowness is demonstrated since he fantasizes the girls over their body features. Seeing these girls entering the store, their physical appearance has caught his interest which allows him to envision his life with them.
Towards the end of the story, the author uses the consequences of Sammy quitting his job and his expendability of himself to show how the insignificance of a single action in the long run. "The girls, and who'd blame them, are in a hurry to get out, so I say " quit" to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they'll stop and watch me, their unexpected hero. They keep on going, the electric eye; the door flies open and they flicker across the lot to their car, Queenie and Plaid and Big Tall Goony-Goony (not that as raw material she was so bad), leaving me with Lengel and a kink in his eyebrow" (par. 22). He tries to defend the girls from Lengel, thinking that he might have a chance with the girls. When Lengel comes up to the girls and tells them they need to dress up decently, Sammy justifies what they have done. Sammy speaks on their behalf, making him seem like a hero for defending them as the owner of the store. As soon as Sammy heard what Lengel was saying to them, he felt it was unnecessary and even got furious with him for telling them what to do. "I thought you did. "You didn't have to embarrass them. It was they who were embarrassing us. "I don't think you know what you're saying." Lengel said. "I know you don't", I said "But I do". I pull the bow at the back of my apron and start shrugging it off my shoulders" (par. 24-30). Later throughout the story Sammy gets angry with Lengel since he is the one who is accusing the girls of being inappropriate in the store. After he defended these girls, he believed they would look back at him like a hero but unfortunately he ended up losing his job over someone who is not even worthy of his attention, "I look around for my girls, but they're gone, of course...and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter" (par. 32). Although he defended the girls from Lengel, it was not worth it since they ended up leaving him all alone. Although he has defended them from his boss, they are gone already and they do not know what he has done for them. Despite him defending the girls from his boss and even quitting just to help them out, in the end it was not worth it since the girls end up leaving alone without even thanking him for what he has done.
The author uses imagery, setting, and irony in the story to illustrate how someone's desire can lead to their tragedy. Normally, we believe that we always make the right decisions without even thinking of the consequences. We end up making decisions we regret but unfortunately it is too late and there is nothing we can do about it. Making regretful decisions can help us have insight about ourselves, it can help us avoid making future mistakes, and it can help us become a better person of tomorrow. As Wayne Dyer said, "You'll seldom experience regret for anything that you have done. It is what you haven't done that will torment you".