The main character of John Updike’s “A&P” is Sammy, a nineteen-year old boy working as a cashier in an A&P grocery store. He is described at the beginning of the story as having an attitude that is both sarcastic and observant. Throughout the course of the story, however, there is significant change in Sammy’s character.
As applied to John Updike’s “A&P” Who is the main character? Does this person’s character change during the course of the story?
At first, Sammy appears to be content with his lot in life, uninterested in anything but observing the goings on around him and providing occasional snarky commentary about them. His apathy and lack of ambition are revealed when he talks about how he will soon move away from the town to start college: “I wonder where I’ll end up…it could be just someplace more dreary than this…but you get used to it–like everything else.” Despite his seeming indifference to what’s happening around him, though, he still has a moral compass that guides his every action; like when he chooses not to follow orders from Stokesie (the manager) and embarrasses Lengel (the assistant manager) by refusing to make three girls leave because they weren’t dressed appropriately for an A&P.
However, while this decision initially seems noble on Sammy’s part–a brave stand against injustice–his true motivations become clearer as the story progresses. When Queenie (one of the girls) expresses her gratitude for his assistance she remarks: “You don’t have to do this,” which leads Sammy into reflecting on why exactly he was doing it—to prove himself something bigger than what society had stereotyped him as being: “Somebody ought to stand up for them once in awhile….It seemed only right….Geeez! All I know is I’m standing there with my hands full of cans telling Lengel ‘No,’.” From here we can see that this moment marks a turning point for Sammy: no longer content with drifting through life without purpose or ambition, he now realizes that sometimes one must take risks and defy authority if they truly want something better out of life—something better than merely settling for mediocrity.
This newfound sense of determination leads him into quitting his job at A&P after Lengel reprimands him publicly—a bold statement against conformity that reveals how significantly Sammy’s character has changed over the course of just one afternoon. In leaving their employ so recklessly and openly defying their authority, it shows us how much personal growth he has experienced since encountering Queenie at the supermarket just minutes prior: no longer willing to accept anything less than what he believes is right or fair even if it means sacrificing personal comfort or safety along with it—a powerful testament indeed.
In conclusion then we can say that John Updike’s “A&P” presents us with a protagonist who undergoes major character development throughout its duration–from an indifferent observer who simply goes through the motions each day without much thought given towards its purpose or consequences all way up until becoming someone who stands up courageously against injustice regardless of any potential cost associated with it. It thus serves as evidence towards Updike’s assertion regarding self-determination being essential for anyone wanting success out life boldly stating “you have got evaluate your possibilities constantly”.