Sammy's Rite of Passage

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Sammy’s Rite of Passage Sammy is the protagonist of John Updike’s “A&P.” The title of the story is important because it gives us the context of the narrative. Sammy is a nineteen-year-old boy working the checkout line at an A&P in a small New England town. When three girls come into the store, wearing only bathing suits and are antagonized by the store manager Lengel, Sammy quits his job, hoping to impress them, and is then filled with regret about the future. Sammy is a very dynamic character that transforms from an adolescent into an adult at the end of the story by standing up for his beliefs, taking responsibility for his actions, and learning that life is tough. At the conflict of the story, Sammy stands up for his beliefs when he quits his job. The major external conflict is between Sammy and Lengel. Sammy believes there is a need to protest against Lengel because he embarrassed the girls. Although he may have done it for the wrong reasons like recognition for his courageous act by the girls, he still carries out the bold act of “[folding] the apron, ‘Sammy’ stitched in red on the pocket, and [putting] it on the counter, and [dropping] the bow tie on top of it” (Updike 23). Lengel also symbolizes “the man” or the system. He sees Lengel as the oppressor and his future. He finds the girls in their suits, which are fascinating, refreshing, something completely out of the ordinary, and it appeals to him. Thus, Sammy feels the need to carry out his beliefs by quitting his job, which brings him a step closer to being an adult. When Sammy quit his job, he feels regret almost suddenly, but he takes responsibility for his actions. Instead of trying to beg for his job when Lengel gave him a chance, he makes a “clean exit” (Updike 23). In the process of quitting, Sammy says, “But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with
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