Literary Essay Example on the A & P Story by John Updike

Published: 2022-04-15 18:20:25
Literary Essay Example on the A & P Story by John Updike
Type of paper:  Critical thinking
Categories: American literature
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 589 words
5 min read

A & P by John Updike is quite an interesting story but at the same time also a disappointing one. The protagonist quits his job but there is no real reason given as to why he quits. Moreover, it remains unclear if the central character quit his job since he thought the ladies were treated right as if he actually got anywhere with them. The climax of the story is thought-provoking but the end is quite strange and to some extent, the story appears like it is unfinished.

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On the other hand, there is a lot to admire and the words used by the leading character in the story are quite pertinent. The way in which he describes the girls could be expected of a teen clerk who is only interested in the ladies because of what they are wearing. Besides, he is also surrounded by older women who he obviously cannot admire as eye candy. The bow tie and the apron signifies the rules given to him at the place of work. Essentially, the story remains stimulating and offers good reading value as an understanding of the mind of the protagonist.


In the story A & P, Updike seems to employ the subject of teens versus adults. The tale starts with an adolescent boy working part-time at a convenience store. Three teenaged girls walk into the shop dressed in bathing suits. Much of the story revolves around Sammy, the teenage boy's interest in the young girls. As the story nears the end, the conflict comes into play when Sammy's boss comes out to embarrass the ladies by telling them that they should dress appropriately when shopping in his store. Sammy is not impressed by the way his manager treated the girls, so he quits his job. In the end, he does not benefit in any way from the decision to quit his job and sorts of regrets it.


The girls command attention and sexual power causing Sammy to quit his job. The leader of the group particularly commands Sammy's attention by allowing her bathing suit to slip. Additionally, she carries herself with confidence unlike the other two girls (Updike, 1998). She is aware that the people in the store are looking at her, but she acts not to notice. As such, this dynamic giver her certain authority. Sammy also looks at other customers' reactions with amusement and contempt. To him, they represent social orthodoxy. By referring to the housewives as house-slaves, this shows that he assumes that he is conversant with their inner lives at home.

Stokesie, on the other hand, signifies a kind of maturity that Sammy is wary of, with few ambitions and the responsibility of the family. Despite these differences, Sammy acknowledges that he and Stokesie have a lot in common. For example, Stokesie is equally distracted by the sight of the girls in bathing suits. At this point, the difference between being mature and a teenager seems very little to Sammy. For him, it's just like a biological matter of having children.

Overall, the story provides a great lesson to learn. Sammy realized that he had chosen the wrong path by quitting his job after he had gone through with it. In this regard, teenagers can learn a lot more from this account that adults. Sammy followed the path he thought was right by standing firmly for he believed in. That itself is a lesson that we should make informed choices.

Works Cited

Updike, J. (1998). A and P. Cengage Learning.

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