Even though the story is just a few pages long and focuses on the narrator’s description of the three girls, it is long enough to fully uncover the character of Sammy, the narrator. The story is told in first person narration and unfolds in a supermarket. Throughout the short story, the readers see Sammy grow from an immature boy to a fully matured man who is able to take, stand by, face and accept the consequences of his own actions, which initially seem thoughtless.
At the beginning of the story, Sammy seems like a thoughtless sexist who only admires girls because he has nothing to do , but as the story develops the readers is able to see beyond Sammy’s obsession and objectification of the three girls. The reader sees beyond Sammy’s seemingly thoughtless actions and sees the logical reason for his rebellion. Sammy is therefore the unrecognised hero in this story.
At the initial stages of the story Sammy’s heroism is so much concealed that it can be taken as youthful ignorance, combined with teenage truancy. This is reflected in his cynical attitudes towards everything that he sees including the customers who come to A & P supermarket. Sammy calls them house slaves and sees the clients as sheep who are just ready to follow any established rules without question (Updike para 5).
Sammy’s concealed heroism is also seen as the normal teenage rebellion against his parents as he sees everything they do as too old fashioned. When they hold a party, Sammy sarcastically objects to their behaviour by saying that they serve “lemonade and if it’s a real racy affair Schlitz in tall glasses with ‘They’ll Do It Every Time’ cartoons stencilled on” (para 14).
As the story unfolds, Sammy heroism soon becomes apparent to the keen reader. At the face value Sammy’s sympathy with the three girls can be interpreted as sexist behaviour.
The three girls are dressed in swim suits only (para 1), a sense of dressing that is unusual given the fact that the beach is twenty miles away from the supermarket. While Lengel the supermarket manager admonishes the girls for being inappropriately dressed (para 13) Sammy sees the girls as very striking and attractive (para 2). His attitude towards the girls is more than sympathy.
It is an indication of his maturity and ability to question and reject established societal rules. Sammy sees such kind of rebellion as what the others (the people) want (para 19). Sammy’s decision to identify with this kind of rebellion is an indication of the fact that he wants to be one of the others, the rebels. It also means that he is fighting for and willing to stand with those people who are discriminated in the society. As such he is their unrecognized hero.
Sammy’s rebellious attitude leads him to do something that initially seems illogical: quitting his job. Initially Sammy appears as seeking sympathy from the girls, as he announces his resignation loud enough for the girls to hear (para 22). This does not gain him any sympathy from the girls. He also realizes that his actions will make his life very hard. He accepts the consequences of the action like a grown up (para 32). As such by standing for what he believes in, he becomes his own hero.
Sammy is an unrecognized hero whose drastic actions initially seemed illogical. His rebellious attitude is an indication of his willingness to stand with those people who are oppressed and also to stand firm for what he believes is right thing. He therefore becomes a hero to himself and to the oppressed.
Updike, John. A & P. n. d. July 7, 2011. http://www.tiger-town.com/whatnot/updike/