Sammy The Opportunist

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In John Updike's short story “A&P” we meet a young protagonist named Sammy who works at the “A&P grocery store. He takes notice of a group of girls who, wearing only bathing suits, browse throughout the aisles of the store looking for herring snacks. Throughout the story he appraises the girls sexually and judges them harshly, based on their looks. Towards the end of the story, the girls have a confrontation with the store manager because of their attire. This leads to Sammy defending the girls, and ultimately quitting his job, only to have his chivalric deed go unnoticed. Most critics of the story make Sammy out to be a hero, and he certainly seems like one in the situation, but was he really? Was Sammy a hero, or an opportunist? Throughout the story, Sammy hints at a dislike for his job and generally shows no respect for the customers. He refers to one customer as “a witch about fifty with rose on her cheekbones” (Updike, par. 1). Sammy also refers to the average customers as “Sheep” (Updike, par. 5 & 20) because they act like livestock and continue shopping, oblivious to events happening around them. “He also gives a detailed description of the supermarket's floor and knows of every event that occurs outside the store's front window” (Thompson, par.4), so we get an idea that Sammy has worked there for quite some time. His lack of respect for the people in the store, as well as his description of his surroundings, leads us to believe that he does not enjoy working there. Sammy is also judgmental of the girls who enter the store. He gives them all nicknames and pays close attention to their physical features as well, judging them as they walk through the store and comparing them to items found in the supermarket. By doing this, “Sammy suggests that they, like the commodities, are merely objects to be observed, handled, and used” (Thompson, par. 4). At first, Sammy

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