The short story A & P, by John Updike, can be broken down into a number of components, which include characters, setting, plot, point of view, and the theme.

A & P is a story about a young man, about 19, named Sammy, who is a cashier at a local supermarket. His supporting characters are Lengel, who is the store manager; Stoksie, Sammy’s buddy and a cashier; and Queenie plus her two followers, who are unusual customers at the supermarket.

The setting of the story is in the early ’60s in an ordinary supermarket, which is located in a small quiet town, north of Boston. Most of the customers are old and conservative, with a few tourists here and there.

A & P is surrounded around Sammy, a teenager, who is about to become an adult. The story, basically, shows the first step of his metamorphoses.

The events of the story are seen through the eyes of the main character. The reader is able to experience his points of view, his feelings, and his problems.

I believe that John Updike’s main theme of the story is the idea of growing up, being independent, making decisions on our own, and being responsible for the consequences.

The point in life where we can’t do what people around us would like us to, and therefore being decisive and a little selfish, is the idea incorporated into Sammy’s life where he rebels and escapes from being trapped by his parents to become more independent and adult-like.

In my opinion, the story was well written. The author presented his idea in an interesting and simple way, making A & P a great piece of work.

[See Comments for further Analysis]

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0


  1. The intro to the essay and JenniP’s comment are both on the money; but both readers seem to forget, it’s Sammy’s story, his view of the girls in the A&P, not Updike’s view. So Sammy seems to respond as one of the peers of the girls, one whom he admires for being different, rebelling, and doing what she wants as far as shopping goes and leading her friends, while she is oblivious to the scene of the store. I’ll bet there were rebels in the late 1950’s and early 60’s just as there were in the late 1960’s and after.

  2. While the summary is somewhat accurate, a major point is overlooked. The story takes place in the 1960’s, NOT the 1980’s, making the fact that three girls are walking around a supermarket with straps down, even two-pieces, much more taboo and influential to the whole theme of the story. The story was written in 1961, before the “free-love” era, with hints of the conservative “Stepford Wife” society of the 50’s. His reaction, while trying to justify otherwise, is purely sexual and objectifying, first describing in detail the “cans” of the girls, then sympathizing and almost sainting them, seeing them as victims of purposeful objectification, which he himself had done the entire story. This story is mere adolescence attempting to be adult. The only reason he quit, and he states it clearly, was in hopes the girls would hear him and be impressed, which obviously did not happen. But by then it was too late.

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