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Secondary Sources on “A&P” Story by John Updike


A&P by John Updike is a short story describing an incident at a supermarket. The main character, Sammy, is a representative of the typical middle class who works in the store as a cashier. When three girls in bathing suits enter, disturbing the peace in this establishment, Sammy decides to quit his job as a noble gesture of rebellion. This paper will analyze the issue of social class and decision-making using the example of Updike’s A&P.

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A&P Analysis

Sammy’s behavior in A&P is remarkable because, over the course of the story, he transforms from a supermarket employee who hates his customers to a self-proclaimed hero. For example, in the beginning, Sammy describes one of the visitors as “if she’d been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem” (Updike 1). Here, Updike represents someone from a lower to the middle class of the society, a person unsatisfied with their job which continues to work to support himself. Aguiar employs the notion of the “living class” to describe Sammy’s actions, which is the case of classifying the worker’s class based on their value while living the upper strata unclassified (1).

This assessment helps understand how Sammy views his place in society and why he chooses to rebel. Towards the end of this short story, when the girls are asked to leave the supermarket, Sammy chooses to quit his job (Updike 3). This gesture is unasked for, and the three girls leave before noticing Sammy’s sacrifice. However, he considers himself a hero for committing to help the women who, as he perceives, were treated unfairly.

The moral aspect of Sammy’s decision should be viewed from the perspective of the middle class in opposition to the upper class and the decision-making process. According to Bezdoode and Bezdoode, “Updike has devoted his fiction to subjects’ rational and moral problems in the contemporary consumerist society” (1). Weber’s definition of decision-making suggests that the process is affected by the rules and regulations, both legal and implicit, that exist in society (Bezdoode and Bezdoode 1).

However, Updike shows Sammy’s rebellion against the behavior that was demonstrated by other representatives of the middle class in this supermarket. Hence, this story allows the reader to reflect on how people make decisions in the consumerist society. The majority, in line with the store’s manager, is angered by the girl’s behavior. Sammy, on the other hand, rebels against the behaviors that are shown as typical for the middle class. Updike himself notes that his stories, including the A&P, are autobiographical, which means that his characters and events are a recollection of the author’s experiences in real life (Shafer and Updike 1). Hence, this story accurately shows how people from the middle-class act and are examples of rebellious behavior.


In summary, this paper is the analysis of John Updike’s short story A&P. The plot of this work shows a supermarket, where the main character works. When the three young girls in bathing suits enter, the visitors and the manner judge them. Eventually, they are asked to leave because they disturb the norms of behavior set by the middle class. Sammy, however, chooses to rebel against these rules and quits his job. Hence, under Weber’s theory of decision-making, he acts against the norms and standards set by his social strata.

Annotated Works Cited

Aguiar, Cristian. “Living class in John Updike’s “A&P.” The Explicator, 2020, pp. 1–4.

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Aguiar’s work helps analyze Updike’s text because the former employs the notion of “living class” to examine the latter’s short story. This author suggests that the narrative depicts the main character’s misconception about class and interactions between people from different strata of society. This is a reliable source published in a scholarly paper, and Aguiar’s assessment helps answer the question in this essay because the author argues that Sammy acts in a way that is different from the typical behavior of his social group.

Shafer, Ronald and John Updike. “John Updike Talks About Writing, His Life, and His Works.” Johns Hopkins University Press, vol. 80, no. 2/3, 2018, pp. 254-261.

This article is a reliable source because it is the interview of the author of A&P. It helps with the analysis in this paper because it allows one to understand the motivation and the through the process of the writer. Hence, it supports the answers in the essay because it provides Updike’s opinion on the theme of A&P.

Updike, John. A&P. New Yorker, 1961.

The general analytical perspective of this paper relating to A&P is the decision-making process that Sammy took when he decided to quit his job at the supermarket, which is an expert opinion. The main character’s actions are remarkable because, at first, he acted in line with the other members of his social group. However, in the end, he decided to become a hero, although his actions were unrecognized, which is the basis of analysis in this essay.

Bezdoode, Zakarya and Eshaq Bezdoode. “Heroism in the Age of Consumerism: The Emergence of a Moral Don Quixote in John Updike’s “A & P.” Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 23, no. 3, 2020 pp. 1-10.

This source was selected for the analysis to determine how Sammy has come to the decision to quit his job after encountering the girls at the supermarket. The authors apply Webber’s notion of this phenomenon, suggesting that people make decisions using rationale and legal rules, which is an expert opinion that helps answer the question of this essay. Hence, people decide to act using a broader set of implicit rules according to which the entire society functions, which is not the case with Sammy. This is a reliable source that helps analyze Updike’s story because it offers a new perspective on Sammy’s behavior.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, October 15). Secondary Sources on “A&P” Story by John Updike.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Secondary Sources on “A&P” Story by John Updike'. 15 October.

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