A&P and Other Stories

Plot summary

Sammy, a teenage clerk in an A & P grocery, is working the cash register on a hot summer day when three young women about his age enter barefoot and clad only in swimsuits, to purchase herring snacks.

Although they are dressed for the beach, Sammy allows the girls to continue shopping while he appraises them sexually. He imagines details about the girls based on their appearance alone, impressions that, to his surprise, are shaken when the leader of the trio, a stunning girl he has dubbed "Queenie", speaks in a voice unlike that which he had created in his mind. Lengel, the old and prudish manager, feels the girls are not clothed appropriately for a grocery store, and admonishes them, telling them they must have their shoulders covered next time, which Sammy believes embarrasses them.

Offended by the manager's disregard for the three customers' dignity, Sammy ceremoniously removes his store apron and bow tie and resigns on the spot, despite the mention by the manager of the pain this would cause his parents. Sammy then leaves the store, seemingly in expectation of some display of affection or appreciation from the young women involved, only to find that they've already left, apparently oblivious to his presence. Sammy's disappointment in this development strikes a very typical Updike theme.


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