Is This the Life for Me?
Do you want to hear this for the rest of your life: "Hello (bing) there, you (gung) hap-py pee-pul (splat)!" (Updike 19). This was a melodious song that could be heard by only those who know the tune. Sammy the central character of this story is looking for a change or a way out of his situation but does know how. In the short story "A&P", John Updike present elements of naive romanticism often seen in American society during the 1960s. As we look through this short story we see Sammy and the three girls he observes in the neighborhood A&P where he works, show strong disregard for conformity and mimic the free-spirited ideology of this time period.
From the time girls step into the A&P, you can see how this free-spirited ideology is embraced by these girls in different ways:
They didn't even have shoes on. There was this chunky one, with the two-pieceit was bright green and the seams on the bra were still sharp and her belly was still pretty pale so I guessed she just got it (the suit)there was this one, with one of those chubby berry- faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose, this one, and a tall one, with black hair that hadn't quite frizzed right, and one of these sunburns right across under the eyes, and a chin that was too longyou know, the kind of girl other girls think is very "striking" and "attractive" but never quite makes it, as they very well know, which is why they like her so muchand then the third one, that wasn't quite so tall. She was the queen (Updike 17).
For them to be dressed the way that they were and not wearing any shoes shows how free-spirited they were. This was frowned upon by people of the 50s and previous generations.
Self-conscious people from the 50s, would have put the chunky girl in more than just a two piece bathing suit. As she walked up and down in the store with her friend didn't care about what others had to say about her. The second girl is the most traditional of the three females; she has similar qualities of the first girl. Her presence in the story served as a reflection of the sexual desires that were more publicly discussed in the 60s. There was an increase in the sexual prowess during this time and it was made evident in the fact that the other two girls kept the middle one around so they would not have competition.
Sammy referred to the third girl as "Queenie" She was the leader of the group. Queenie represents the whole entire 60's counterculture movement. "During the 1960s, an emerging subculture based on age, behaviors, and political stabilities gradually became well defined as an opposition to the official culture." (Kimmel 41) The confrontation at the end of the story between Queenie and Lengal shows this opposition to the official culture. "Girls this isn't the beach." (Updike 19). Lengal observes how the girls are dressed and tells them that it is not appropriate attire for the store. Queenie doesn't back down to Lengal. "We are decent" telling Lengal that what they have on is perfectly fine. As if to say that they didn't walk into the store naked.
These free-spirited girls that came into the A&P gave Sammy the inspiration he needed to take on this ideology of the 60s culture. Sammy quits his job after seeing how his manager talks to the girls. "You didn't have to embarrass them" (Updike 20). He had an epiphany at this point to up and quit his job. He didn't want to be there like some of the employees he worked with. "Stokesie's, married with two babies" (Updike 18), he hopes to be manager someday at the A&P. This implies that Stokesie's has no other option, so he has to make the best out of it. Having to deal with how the customers treated him each day. "I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell (Updike 16). He was not happy and he need a change. What would it take for you to leave a job? A job where you were not happy with the people you came in contact with with? At what point would you be able to say that the money isn't worth it? Is this something meaningful and right that I am doing? These are questions that Sammy could been asking himself, looking for a reason to leave his job. The girls were just a tool that Sammy used to get out of working at the A&P.