A&P: A Character Analysis
Every human being reaches a point in their life in which they are no longer a child but not quite an adult. It’s an awkward place to find yourself trapped in. Most people have a self-realization triggered by a learning experience or a reality check. In “A & P”, John Updike writes to us in the thoughts of Sammy, a nineteen year-old cashier caught in a place somewhere between his youth and adulthood. The first person narration has a tremendous effect on how the reader views the main character. Although immature and juvenile thoughts are abundantly present, it is clearly visible to the reader how this young man yearns to become an adult. Through first person point-of- view and access to the main character’s inner thoughts, John Updike develops the character of Sammy and delivers his audience a story of a growing pain.
Updike gives the reader unlimited access to the thoughts of this cashier. Even though the reader does not learn of Sammy’s age until paragraph seven, the language use can lead the reader to assume that this young man is somewhere between 16-21 years of age. It hints to the fact that he is not a child but not yet mature enough to be an adult either. The narration seems almost as if Sammy were story-telling; the first line beings, “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits” (1). It is not grammatically correct, yet it is commonly used in a conversational manner. The use of low diction by Updike also influences the reader’s perception of Sammy and his childish thoughts. As Sammy follows the girls around the store, he describes some of the items for sale. He refers to some records as “some such gunk you wonder why they waste the wax on” and describes “plastic toys done up in cellophane that fall apart when a kid looks at them anyways” (12). An adult would not normally speak using words as “such gunk” and “done up”; these phrases further clarify the adolescent approach.
Sammy’s description of the three girls...