John Updike’s Book ‘A & P’


After reading the short story ‘A & P’, one will be forgiven for believing that Sammy quit his job as a result of his immature, childlike behavior (Uphaus 23). However, a critical analysis of the character will reveal that Sammy did not quit his job on principle grounds. On the contrary, he left A & P because he wanted to impress Queenie. His motives for leaving his job went beyond his behavior. A character is a young man in pursuit of his personal desires and satisfaction in life.

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He goes ahead and opposes Lengel, taking a stand in favor of the girls. For a brief moment, Sammy changes his status and rises to the upper- class. In this essay, the author is going to critically analyze why Sammy says ‘I quit’ so abruptly. In addition, the author will analyze the reason why Sammy says that the world will treat him harshly after his experience at A & P. To this end, the author believes that contrary to popular belief, Sammy did not say ‘I quit’ as a result of his immature, childlike behavior.

Why Sammy Quit his Job

Sammy was living as a low-class citizen, something that he was very uncomfortable with. He thought that he did not belong to the dead-end job he had at A & P. He spent his days fantasizing about being part of a family that holds regular lavish parties for the elites in the society. He realized that one of the girls at his workplace must have come from such a family. When Lengel is questioning Queenie, Sammy tries to imagine about her background and how she was misplaced to shop at the grocery store.

He could not wait to lead a life like hers. The young man abruptly quits his job to prove a point to Lengel and the rest. He wanted to prove that he did not have to work at A & P and that he belonged to a higher class in society. He also wanted to prove to them that he had a better place in life than what he was currently doing (Luscher 15).

He quits his job because, according to him, leaving A & P is the only way he can step out of the lower class in society and access the higher class. The nineteen-year-old is clearly thrilled by the girls, especially Queenie. His excitement is depicted by his detailed and extensive description of her beauty. However, it is not common for an average young man to quit his job just because he has fallen in love with a random girl. For instance, Sammy wonders whether Queenie has a brain of her own, or she is “just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar” (Updike 1026).

It is important to note that when Updike was writing the short story A & P, most middle-class young men were getting jobs and becoming financially independent at the early age of eighteen years (Uphaus 24). As a result of this reality, Sammy realizes that quitting his job at A & P will not be as easy as it appears to the undiscerning observer. Sammy’s doubts are confirmed when Lengel tells him that such an action will really frustrate his parents. He realizes that the conventional thing to do, and most probably the only option he has, is to accept the small-mindedness and consumerism that characterizes A & P.

Moreover, he comes to the realization that the drastic decision he has just made will only plunge him deeper into the uncertainties of the future. Provided that he has already disappointed his parents, Sammy realizes that it is up to him to find another job. His life will likely become more difficult given that in the short term, he has no option but to find another job. In addition, and as a result of his rash attitude, he could easily be branded as a misfit or trouble maker in society. Such a label will make it hard for him to get another job (Luscher 18).

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He also discovers that Queenie did not notice, leave alone reward him, for his heroism. The discovery makes him a very disappointed young man. He realizes that life will be more difficult now than it was before because he will probably have to deal with the stigma. His peers will stigmatize him and label him as the young man who was snubbed by the girl he stood up to defend.


In conclusion, it is important to note that Sammy’s actions were spontaneous and ridiculous (Hatcher 38). However, Sammy did not leave A & P just because he wanted to impress Queenie. He admired her, but what he really wanted more was to be able to live like her than to live with her. He was thrilled by the status occupied by girls in society. His experience after A & P will be hard because of the challenges associated with finding a new job in the short term.

Works Cited

Hatcher, Nathan. “Sammy’s Motive.” Ode to Friendship & Other Essays: Student Writing at Virginia Wesleyan College. Ed. Connie Bellamy. Norfolk, Virginia: Free Press, 1996. 37. Print.

Luscher, Robert. John Updike: A Study of the Short Fiction, New York: Twayne, 1993. Print.

Updike, John. “A&P.” Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sullivan Barnet. New York: HarperCollims, 1989. 1026-1030. Print.

Uphaus, Suzanne. John Updike. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1986. Print.

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