Life in the Sixties Sometimes in life people do strange things, and while others may perceive it as a harmless act, human morals can make it seem otherwise. In the story "A & P" John Updike reveals what it is like to have been a young man who worked in a grocery store in the nineteen-sixties and what it was like to see three young girls walk in with only two pieces on. The semi- sexist thoughts of how Sammy describes the young girls when they walk in, the three girls walking in to the grocery store in only two pieces was obviously against the moral standards of that day, and sometimes small, seemingly insignificant actions and events can push a person to make a life-changing decisions, are the themes of John Updike's story. How men perceive women is a funny thing, Sammy, the one who is telling the story, gives, what we call sexual, and almost kind of a perverted way of describing the girls. Updike used his descriptions of the girls to bring out that men, even then had impure thoughts of women and the way that we perceive them sometimes, really though, it's the nineteen-sixties and in walks three beautiful girls in not just bathing suits, but two pieces! Of course a male mind is going to start racing a million miles per second.
So begins the sexual descriptions of the girls. So as Sammy is ringing up the lady's food at the cash register, he can't help but be distracted, Updike shows us this when Sammy says "I stood there with a box of HiH o crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. I ring it up and the customer starts giving me hell" (p. 344). Updike clearly showed that the girls were a distraction to Sammy, and how easy it was for his thoughts to go astray.
The three girls walking into the A & P was not what was wrong, it was the fact that they came in wearing bathing suits. Not just the normal bathing suit, but a bikini! By law, one had to be over eighteen just to get in to a movie if there were going to be women in bikinis in it. Two piece bathing suits were practically unheard of and if someone was caught wearing one, they might have been considered wild and irresponsible. Walking into the grocery store would be were the wild part comes in. Sammy points out in the story that "it's one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway, and another thing in the cool of the A & P, under fluorescent lights, against all those stacked packages" (p. 345).
Today it wouldn't be such a big deal, since society is used to seeing half naked women everywhere, but in the nineteen-sixties, the morals were not so slack. That just shows us how much respect society has or doesn't have for women today. The most important theme in the story is how Sammy handled the situation after his boss practically embarrassed the girls in front of the whole store. Sammy chooses to quit his job on behalf of the girls, and in hope that they will see him as there hero "I quit" (p. 347) Sammy says to his boss, thinking that the girls will see what he has done and come back to him.
Quitting a job back then was a disgrace to the employee, not the employer. That kind of action could have followed someone around for the rest of his or her life. Quitting a job was seen as irresponsible. This is where I see the most important theme in the story, because it's weird how seemingly insignificant actions can lead to a life changing decision. A & P is a story we can all learn from, it can be looked at in several different ways, and if you take into consideration that the story was based in the nineteen-sixties, you can see how males view women in a sexual way even still, or how insane it is to walk into a grocery store in just a two piece, and how small events can lead to a drastic decision. Everyone should be able to read this story and relate to the themes of A&P, and think about how that story would be taken into today's standards.