A&P is a story written by two time Pulitzer prize award winning author John Updike. He is one of three authors to win the award twice.1 He is a celebrated author, artist, and cartoonist, but he is perhaps most well known for his writing. An extremely prolific writer, his works are recognizable to a large portion of the American population. In fact, a biography by Steven Moyer states that readers “would have entered into the at times sad, at times triumphant thoughts of, say, a certain check-out clerk at the local grocery store; 'A&P' serving as a model of dramatic irony for at least two generations of English literature teachers.”2
A&P , which stands for The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea ...view middle of the document...
What sets this group of girls apart is their revealing attire in 1961 conservative Massachusetts. “You know, 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, against all those stacked packages, with her feet paddling along naked over our checkerboard green-and-cream rubber-tile floor.”4 Sammy's immaturity is revealed by his typical male teenaged reaction to the young attractive girls. He does not think twice about the girls' background; he makes his assumptions based solely on their appearances.
Objectification: The First Lesson
Sammy is at first focused on the appearance of the girls, but as they reveal their affluence through language and demeanor, however, it becomes apparent to Sammy that he desperately wants to join their world. At first Sammy partakes in the jaw-dropped reactions of most of the workers and customers at the A&P, but slowly he peels away and truly sees the objectification of these girls happening before his eyes. “Now here comes the sad part of the story, at least my family says it's sad but I don't think it's sad myself. The store's pretty empty, it being Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again. The whole store was like a pinball machine and I didn't know which tunnel they'd come out of.”5 At this point Sammy realizes that these girls did not come to the store to seek attention. He later sees that his family might pity the girls for unknowingly becoming the center of attention. He, however, begins to see that he may have other options than just ogling the girls. Perhaps they simply wanted to do some shopping and did not consciously choose to be conspicuous. Sammy takes a step in the direction of maturity by learning that the girls are people, not just objects.
Enter the Boss and the Second Lesson
As the girls make their way to the check out line, Sammy's boss Lengel enters the scene. Lengel is immediately disgusted at the girls' inherent lack of thought in their own decorum and attire. Lengel quickly starts on the offensive by stating: "'Girls, this isn't the beach.' Queenie blushes, though maybe it's just a brush of sunburn I was noticing for the first time, now that she was so...