Truth about Sammy in John Updike's A&P Essay

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The Truth about Sammy in A & P

At first glance, Sammy, the first-person narrator of John Updike's "A & P," would seem to present us with a simple and plausible explanation as to why he quits his job at the grocery store mentioned in the title: he is standing up for the girls that his boss, Lengel, has insulted. He even tries to sell us on this explanation by mentioning how the girls' embarrassment at the hands of the manager makes him feel "scrunchy" inside and by referring to himself as their "unsuspected hero" after he goes through with his "gesture." Upon closer examination, though, it does not seem plausible that Sammy would have quit in defense of girls whom he quite evidently despises, despite the lustful desires
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The notion that he would quit his job in defense of this person that he so evidently despises is ludicrous. In fact, prior to the description of Lengel's encounter with the girls, Sammy as much as admits the validity of the exact same objection that Lengel has to them, their appearance in swimsuits, when he offers us a description of the A & P's location: in the middle of town, miles from any beach, and where "the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street."

A more likely explanation for Sammy's abrupt resignation from his job is his complete boredom with it. This dissatisfaction with his work situation is plainly seen in his regard for a group that Sammy holds in even more contempt than the girls: the regular, paying customers. His references to them as "sheep," "houseslaves" and "pigs" reveals his attitude toward the group that keeps his employer in business--and Sammy in a job that he hates. His diatribe in the story's beginning directed at the "witch" who points out to him that he rang up the same purchase twice shows the unreasonable nature of this contempt for the customers: the mistake was quite clearly Sammy's fault, yet he lashes out at a customer who simply did what any
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