Explication Essay of a&P by John Updike

Essay 1-Explication Essay of A&P by John Updike We have all had that moment of clarity when we realize, no longer children, our decisions can greatly impact the course of our future. A&P gives an insight into the main character’s realization of how he perceives his life, the lives of those around him, and how with one impulsive decision he forever changed the course of his life. Sammy, the narrator of A&P, is a 19 year old boy whose assumption of others, dislike of conformity, and his rash decision making exemplify teenage discovery, that our actions impact our future.

Sammy’s assumption of others is immature and serves only as a distraction from his self-distain. He describes, in great detail, the three girls who enter the A&P, in their bathing suits. He begins with their physical descriptions, which lead him to assume their character summarizations. He goes so far as to give them nicknames. “There was the chunky one”, “a tall one, with black hair that hadn’t quite frizzed right”, and then the third one”, She was the queen. ” [385]. “Queenie and Plaid and Big Tall Goony-Goony. ” [388]. While Sammy is ringing up the sale in his checkout slot, he visualizes “Queenie” as this rich, sophisticated girl.

He fantasizes about what her family is like and how fancy their parties must be. He then depicts his family as lower class, as if this was something to be ashamed of, and that he was above that. “Her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big glass plate. ” “When my parents have someone over they get lemonade and if it’s a racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses. ” [387]. His assumptions and daydreams allow him to escape his reality, temporarily.

This is a coping technique, a way for him to get through the day to day, at a job his dislikes, and a life he views as beneath him. During Sammy’s descriptive assumptions of these girls, he also illustrates his view of the community around him and his dislike of conformity. Sammy describes the routine shoppers and in doing so he depicts his dislike of conformity. He portrays them as sheep with the inability to stray from their monotonous routines. “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisles-“, “I bet you could set off dynamite in the A&P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists. [386]. He views each day as predictable with nothing to look forward to. That is why when these girls entered the store it was a sight to behold. It was the abrupt change in the daily conformity that Sammy so desperately wanted. “The store’s pretty empty, it being a Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again. ” [387]. He changed that day, from a teenage boy with immature daydreams about girls, to an adult. It was because of the insight he depicted from these girls. When the manager, Lengel, embarrasses the girls for their lack of clothing, it upsets Sammy.

He then chooses to quit. He reasons it is the right choice, concluding it is the adult thing to do. To stand-up for what is right, and to voice his disagreement with Lengel at his attempt in humiliating the girls. “-but remembering how he made that pretty girl blush makes me so scrunch inside I punch the No Sale tab and the machine whirls “pee-pul” and the drawer splats out. ” [388]. He concedes that the conformity of these people and the “day to day” routine is unacceptable, especially when it makes you feel superior, that you have the right to insult others.

While he demonstrates his dislike for conformity, he now has made a rash decision that has consequences he had not considered. Sammy demonstrated typical teenage behavior, by making a rash decision, in quitting his job before rationalizing it. After witnessing Lengel verbally chastise the girls for wearing their bikinis into the store, Sammy decides, in hast, to quit. He believes this will portray him as a hero in the girl’s eyes. He very quickly discovers they exited the store with not so much of a glance back in his direction.

Now, he has to live with his impromptu “adult” decision and the consequences of his choice in quitting his job. “But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it” [388]. He considers the fact that he will regret this decision later on and that he will disappoint his mom and dad, as Lengel pointed out. “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your Mom and Dad. ” He tells me. It’s true, I don’t” [388]. He quickly dismisses these thoughts and makes amends that initially he may be remorseful of his impulsive decision, but realizes this is what he needs to do.

After he exits the store he optimistically looks for the girls and realizes they are gone. “I look around for my girls, they’re gone, of course. ” [389]. He has to take in the fact that he is alone, having to stand on his own two feet, and know that the road ahead with be difficult. “-I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter. ” [389]. Sure to be full of trials, Sammy takes his first auspicious steps into adulthood. His rash decisions may have not been wise but they were needed in his epiphany, which forever changed him.

Although Sammy made some poor choices, they were necessary in his journey into adulthood. Everyone makes bad decisions, but it is how we proceed afterwards that make us who we are. The future is paved with mistakes of the past. We are to learn from them to ensure we do not repeat them. John Updike’s A&P depicts the inescapable decisions of a young man, through his thoughts and actions, and the subsequent consequences of those decisions that allowed him to mature. Works Cited Barnet, Cain, & Burto. Literature for Composition. 9th Edition. Longman. Updike, John. A&P. pg. 385-389.

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