Winners Sometimes Quit Try and remember what it was like to be a teenager. The short story "A&P" tells the coming of age story of a nineteen year old boy named Sammy. Sammy has unknowingly placed himself into a situation that many small town adolescents often fall victim to. Sammy has a dead end job, and he feels as though he will be stuck working at the local "A&P" while life passes him by. This is until a chance encounter with three young female customers changes his course from mini vans and diapers to a welcomed new and uncertain future. After a close examination of the text, Sammy doesn't quit his job because of the girls, he quits knowing that a dead end job is not what he is meant for.
Sammy is a normal teenage boy in many aspects, loves girls, is kind of a dreamer with a very vivid imagination, and is very defiant when it comes to authority. But in many ways Sammy is not the typical small town teen. Sammy is mature enough to understand the reality of his surroundings. The way he talks about the patrons shopping in his store are the thoughts of someone with a firm grip on how the world really works. Sammy talks about one shopper that is moving through his line, "She's one of these cash-register-watchers, ... She'd been watching cash registers for fifty years and probably never seen a mistake before." (Updike, 16) Those are not the words of someone that is happy with their job, having to constantly deal with over barring customers like her.
He despises them so much that he refers to them as sheep. Following the crowd is not what Sammy is about. Sammy makes it blatantly obvious that he is not very experienced with the opposite sex. Even though his descriptions of the girls are very creative, but not too bold, he seems to have at least one misconception about girls.
Sammy offers this comment "You never know for sure how girls' minds work; do you really think it's a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?" (16) This just proves he has never been in a close relationship with a female. Sammy has an amazing eye for detail and no matter how taboo the subject, he manages to get his point across without seeming too offensive. When speaking of the three young women, he takes on the task of describing each girl in great detail and even manages to slip in which one he prefers. Sammy utters "She was the Queen." (16) A small amount of his sense of humor is reveled as he refers to her as Queenie. Sammy further describes his target of affection, "With the straps pushed off, there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light. I mean, it was more than pretty" (16).
Sammy is obviously intelligent and is able to describe his thoughts so eloquently; it's as if the reader is looking through a peephole in his mind. The first time Queenie speaks, he offers up an inner thought, "Her voice kind of startled me, the way voices do when you see the people first, coming out so flat and dumb yet kind of tony, too, the way it ticked over "pick up" and "snacks." All of a sudden I slid right down her voice into her living room." (18) This brilliant passage is not a random thought of a normal grocery store clerk with no education or ambition. It is the voice of a scholar who hasn't yet found his true calling. While the three girls are making their way though the store, a less analyzed character is introduced to the reader. Stokesie is a young man that works in the check-out stand next to Sammy. Even though he is often over looked, Stokesie is one if not the most important character in the story besides Sammy.
Sammy even says himself "Stokesie's married, with two babies chalked up on his fuselage already, but as far as I can tell that's the only difference... He thinks he's going to be manager some sunny day, maybe in 1990 when it's called the Great Alexandros and Petrooshki Tea Company or something." (17) Sammy uses Stokesie's life as a barometer to how his own life could end up. He sees Stokesie as stuck in a situation that he will never be able to get out of, and Sammy knows if he doesn't make a change soon he will end up the same way. After a confrontation between the girls and the store manager, Lengel, Sammy uses it as an opportunity to quit his job. He tells Lengel that he didn't have to treat the girls the way he did, but that's really not what Sammy is so upset about. He's more upset with the fact that it's just one more thing the "establishment" in which Legel represents, tries to enforce its will and rules onto another.
Sammy is smart enough to understand that it will not be easy for him to just walk out. While arguing Legel tells Sammy "you don't want to do this to your Mom and Dad... You " ll feel this for the rest of your life." (19) In which Sammy replies "It's true, ... But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it." This shows that Sammy completely understands what he is doing. Knowing his parents will not be happy with him, Sammy quits to make himself happy. As Sammy is walking away from the store, he glances over his shoulder he describes to the reader what he sees.
While looking through the window he states "I could see Lengel in my place in the slot, checking the sheep through. His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if he'd just had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter." (20) It is as almost if that window he is looking through is a flat crystal ball and he is watching what would have been. He is watching the future that is certainly not meant for him. The most important fact to remember is that Sammy is walking away from that window, leaving that future behind. Ultimately that is why Sammy quits his job. Not because of a single impulsive chivalrous gesture, though some gratitude from the girls would not hurt.
Sammy quits in order to save himself from that same dark future he sees through that window. Some do not agree in what Sammy stands for. One critic states "He has made a conscious decision to reject society (and religion) and all the rules and expectations traditionally held by society. People that do this usually have a lot of trouble in life and the narrator recognizes this in the story's closing line.
He accepts that and obviously he feels that going through the type of trouble quitting his job and making this decision will cause him are preferable to the alternative, which is to accept the rules and expectations of society, which he doesn't like." (Rex 1) This statement is completely incorrect. Sammy is the essence of what makes this country great. He's not rejecting society or religion, he is striving to be independent and be apart of society on his own terms. Sammy is looking for who he is, and anything worth having is worth fighting for.
Sammy doesn't quit his job to impress some girls, he quits to stop depending on others and find is own path trough life. Works Cited Rex, Terry. Rev. of "A&P" John Updike. 2001. 25 March 2005.
web John. "A&P" Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia.
4 th ed. New York: Longman, 2005. 15-21.