Review of “A&P” by John Updike
by Tasha Nicole Haight
Have you ever done something on an impulse or out of anger, and immediately regretted it? Well, that’s exactly how Sammy felt when he quit his job at A&P, hoping to impress a few girls dressed in bikinis when they get kicked out because of their inappropriate attire. In “A&P”, John Updike develops the theme to not make a major decision out of anger. He does this by clearly explaining the situation in which Sammy impulsively quits his job, which he soon regrets.
Things start to go bad as soon as three bikini-clad girls walk into the A&P store, and Sammy cannot look away. When the girls walk in, Sammy can’t even think straight. “I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not” (Updike). He states that “it’s one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway, and another thing in the cool of the A & P, under the fluorescent lights” (Updike). Sammy is mesmerized by the girls and would do anything to impress them.
Once the girls have found what they needed, the manager, Lengel, sees them and kicks them out causing Sammy to get angry. “Girls, this isn’t the beach” (Updike) starts Lengel’s tirade on how they are inappropriately dressed and should not come back without proper clothes on. Angrily, Sammy hits the No Sale tab. He starts “defending a privileged upper class that does not even acknowledge his existence” (Peck), making him madder. When Lengel sends them out, Sammy acts on an impulse.
Sammy quits. He very soon regrets it, too. He knows that he doesn’t really want to quit, he just wants to impress the girls, but the girls completely ignore him and leave. “But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it” (Updike). Still with a chance to keep his job, and knowing he doesn’t want to hurt his parents by quitting, but also knowing he threatened to quit, and believing you cannot back out of a proposal, Sammy quits with rue. Lengel tells him that he will “feel this for the rest of your life” (Updike) and Sammy knows it to also be true. It was stated very well when a critic wrote that “this noble and still uncorrupted youth has acted rashly and lost everything” (Peck). As Sammy leaves the store, his stomach drops when he realizes what he’s done.
Like Sammy, if you do something impulsively, or angrily, that will affect you in the future, without a strong cause or reason, you might very soon regret doing so. Sammy acted out of anger and the need to impress those who ignored him, and it cost him a job, some of his pride, and he regretted it faster than he actually did it. The theme is used in this story to prove that and to show how making decisions impulsively is not so good and that you should try to think things through before committing what could be a life changer.
Peck, David. “A & P”. Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition (2004): 1-2. Literary Reference Center. Web. 9 Nov. 2011.
Updike, John. “A&P”. Short Story Handout.