In John Updike’s short story “A&P”, small town New England life is teeming with a whole lot of nothing. Sammy, the man who tells all, seems very uninterested in his job as a check out boy at the local A&P, yet very interested in the people who shop there. He uses his boredom as a vehicle of his imagination that allows him to pry his customers open and expose their true selves. Updike’s Sammy shows himself as an observant, critical and very bored young man through his first person narration.
Updike’s choice of first person perspective lends Sammy the ever powerful ability to quietly but relentlessly gather observations of the people and things around him. The first characters encountered are “three girls in nothing but bathing suits”(369). This scene would obviously catch the attention of any breathing male. But Sammy first takes in “the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid . . . [with] a sweet broad soft-looking can”(369). With these quick and most likely mindless observations, Sammy exposes himself as a person who judges others based on appearances. As he takes note of the three girls, he sees “the queen… [with] a kind of prim face. Walking into the A&P with your straps down, I suppose it’s the only kind of face you can have”(370). Sammy’s observations of the girls in bathing suits are not the only ones made throughout the story. However, the notice taken of the girls is the most kind.
Perhaps through his mindless job of ringing up items, Sammy finds that making quick judgments of his customers through brief interactions is quite entertaining. He sees one female customer as “one of those cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows…she’d been watching cash registers for fifty years and probably never seen a mistake before”(369). Sammy gathers this unfair judgment coarsely and without much thought. He uses this same technique while watching the girls in bathing suits, for...