Sammy’s Heroism in Updike’s “A&P” Short Story
Sammy is the main character in a short story titled A&P by John Updike. However, he is a protagonist whose behavior is not heroic at all. Sammy goes against societal norms to please some girls who do not recognize his gesture. A&P is a narration by Sammy about an event that leads to his resignation from the only job he got from his parents’ friend. In the story, which happens at the A&P Supermarket, Sammy makes a thoughtless move to defend three girls who walked into the store wearing bikinis. From protecting the girls who violated store policy to quitting his job without enough time to consider the drawbacks of the action, Sammy’s actions are not heroic.
In the beginning, Sammy describes the three girls in sexist language to show his admiration for them. His description manifests objectification of the girls and obsession with their beauty. He stares at the girls and rings a customer’s item twice in confusion (Updike 1). The level of teenage truancy and youthful ignorance portrayed by Sammy makes him less of a hero in the story. All his attention and commitment to work is reduced to fantasy as his eyes keep moving wherever the girls go. If the store had not been without customers, Sammy would have messed with the customers’ bills and time due to lack of concentration.
As he describes the pretty girls, Sammy contrasts them with the store customers in a cynical manner. He refers to A&P clients as sheep because of their adherence to store policies that Queenie and his two girls did not follow (Updike 2). In this instance, Sammy fails the hero test for applauding those who stand in the wrong while demeaning the customers following rules to keep the supermarket orderly.
Regulations and codes of operation exist to maintain order and create a peaceful environment. Their violation can lead to chaos and time wastage, as seen in the A&P supermarket. The employees, including Sammy, Stokesie, and McMahon, are captivated by the girls’ almost naked bodies to the extent of neglecting their duties (Updike 1). It is not heroic to support a violation of rules that causes a chaotic work environment.
The store manager, Lengel, walks into the store and calls the girls out for their inappropriate dress code. Sammy sympathizes with them as he sees them as pretty, attractive, and striking. For the girls’ sake, he stands up against his employer and risks losing his job. He announces his intention to resign loudly so the girls can hear before they leave the store. Sammy refers to himself as the girls’ ‘unsuspected hero’ for quitting his job to defend them against the store policy (Updike 3). Unfortunately, they did not take notice of his ‘heroic’ gesture; but when asked by Lengel what he meant, he sticks to his decision and leaves the store immediately. While outside, he realizes that he made a mistake as he imagines how the world will be brutal on him without an income. Hence, it is not heroic to quit one’s job without a plan to make a point.
In conclusion, Sammy’s actions do not make him A&P’s hero. It is not heroic to manifest sexism and youthful ignorance, as seen in Sammy’s description of the girls in bikinis. He also supports the violation of store policy and even quits his job to make a point. Throughout the story, Sammy does not make any sacrifices or act in a manner that would prove him as the hero.
Updike, John. A & P. (1962). Web.