Characters Sammy’s Growth: A Critical Analysis


John Updike’s “A&P” is a short narration about a teenage character named Sammy who works in a local grocery store as a register. The character’s brief encounters in the narration are a depiction of phenomenal growth. His growth throughout the narration is continuous; and vivid in every episode of the narration.  His transition of character and personality from when the girls get into the story to when he decides to quit his job is noticeable. This paper presents an analysis of Sammy’s growth in Updikes, “A&P.”

Throughout the story, Sammy goes from being an immature teenager, disaffected, and healthy-intentioned individual to a mature individual who is ready to swallow the consequences of his actions. When the story is given, Sammy is caught unaware, glued at a group of lasses in bathing suits. Sammy is mesmerized because the nearest beach is like 8 kilometers away; he just can’t figure out why these girls would trek for such a long distance in that mode of dressing. Sammy, still in awe, watches as they walk around the store and the reaction of other buyers towards these girls. He still has his eyes glued at them until they leave; at some point, he loses the conscience of his actions and rings a customer’s item twice. He gets back to his senses when he sees the store manager questioning these girls on their indecent dressing and feels like the manager is making the girls a bit uncomfortable. It is then that he decides to quit his job at the store. This is a precise transition from being immature who is innocently attracted to people of his opposite sex—just like any other teenager—to a mature individual who is ready to defend what he feels is displeasing—even if it’s not done on him.

Sammy’s growth may be described as permanent growth because it carries gross irreversible consequences. He exposes his maturity right at the beginning of the narration when he excitedly says, “In walks three girls in nothing but bathing suits.” A mature individual would hardly put much attention to the girls. However, the visual analysis he dedicated to getting to know the finer details of every girl is every immature teenager’s work. He even goes deep into individuals construct them and the different ways he was attracted to them. He says, “The one that caught my eye first was the one in the placid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it….” This is giving attention to detail; immaturely. After he’s done with one, he goes to another. He cares about nothing else but their looks. However, the permanency of his growth comes when he changes his attitude towards them. When he discovers that the girls seem disturbed by the butcher’s gaze, he sympathizes with them. At this point, he is not concerned about their physical attributes but their emotional well-being. This is an element of growth, to maturity, and it’s irreversible. To further prove that it is a permanent change, his sympathy for the girls elevates to a point when he decides to quit his job because he thinks that the store manager is too harsh to girls who’ve already explained why they are in bathing suits. The emotional maturity he develops throughout the story is a phenomenal change that can’t be reversed.

In conclusion, Sammy’s character is an embodiment of growth. His transition in the story is visible, permanent, and can easily be described.

Works Cited

Updike, John. A&P, 1962

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