(1984) comments that Sammy’s reaction to Lengel’s chiding of the girls “is the reflex of the still uncorrupted, of the youth still capable of the grand gesture because he has not learned the sad wisdom of compromise” (p. There is an “undertone of sorrow” in the story’s ending, because not only have the girls disappeared, but in their stead Sammy sees a young mother screaming at her children as they complain about not getting candy—“a much commoner refrain to the heady tunes of wishful American romance,” Detweiler comments.
Corey Evan Thompson, in (Summer 2001), argues that Sammy does not quit because of the incident with the girls.
Often “A&P” is seen thematically in terms of rebellion against conformity, and that is indeed a valid interpretation, but another rather more mundane approach might explain the story just as well.
Nineteen-year-old Sammy is simply turned on sexually by thesight of the three girls in bathing suits.
I mean, it was more than pretty.” In other words, he is aroused by the sight, and, more than this, it is likely that he is not content simply to admire from afar.
When she reaches the cash register, he notes that there is no ring on her finger, and one can just imagine him calculating his chances with her and trying to figure out a way in.
Finally, the general point should be made that the 1950s and earliest years of the 1960s are often depicted as times of conformity. Updike certainly had this in mind when he wrote the story. Murray (available from that in those days, during the late years of the Eisenhower administration and early Kennedy years, “people were expected to conform,” although there was also an“undercurrent of rebellion” and “voices of dissent” in figures such as novelist Jack Kerouac, poet Allen Ginsberg, and movie actor James Dean. The perspective, therefore, is that of a young person—his thoughts, feelings, observations, and actions.
Had Updike chosen to tell it from Lengel’s point of view (or Queenie’s, for that matter, or Stokesie’s), it would have been a very different story.
On the contrary, Sammy has long been fed up with his job in the store.
He has been working there a long time (as shown by his intricate knowledge of it and of everything that goes on outside the store window) and does not enjoy it.