What Made The Classic "A & P" by John Updike Controversial Back Then Is Still Relevant Now
Start writing a post

What Made The Classic "A & P" by John Updike Controversial Back Then Is Still Relevant Now

A fresh analysis of a classic short story that tackles a hot topic

What Made The Classic "A & P" by John Updike Controversial Back Then Is Still Relevant Now

"A & P," a short story written by John Updike, was published by The New Yorker in 1961. The story is considered to be a classic and is taught in universities throughout the United States.


The narrator of the story, Sammy, is a cashier at an A & P just north of Boston. Though it is close to the beach, it is far enough away that "women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street. " When three girls around Sammy's age walk into the mart, it attracts his, and everyone else's attention.

The girls go about the store looking for one thing, in particular, Fancy Herring Snacks. The girls approach Sammy's checkout aisle as his Manager, Lengel enters the mart and notices what the girls are wearing. Lengel creates a scene and lets the girls know that in the future they will have to comply with the store's policy and cover their shoulders.

After this, Sammy quits. He quits partially to impress the girls and partially because he thinks Lengel took things too far. As he walks out, freshly unemployed, the girls are nowhere in sight. At this moment his "stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter."

Controversial Elements

The story is layered with sexist thoughts and actions. Both from Sammy and his coworkers. Many people find this story to be extremely grotesque because of the way Sammy talks about the girls. From the start, he assumes the girls enter the store in bikinis because they are seeking attention for their physical appearances.

He goes on to describe pretty much every aspect of the three and doesn't feel the need to leave out how the first girl has "a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it." The story progresses and Sammy even goes as far as saying, "You never know for sure how girls' minds work (do you really think it's a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?)."


The story is told from the first person point of view and in present tense as if the story is unfolding before us. Sammy's overall voice in the story is colloquial. He starts the story off by saying, "In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits." There is a direct misuse of language by Updike. The narrator also discusses the idea of the shoppers being "sheep." Sammy is attracted to the girls, partly based on their appearance, but also because of the way they are going against the grain.

Sammy resists the idea of being a sheep just as the girls are resisting the policy to wear clothes in the store. This idea of resisting excites Sammy so much to the point where he decides to quit his job. The difference between Sammy's rebellion and the three girls' is their class rank. It will be much harder for Sammy to resist being a sheep than it will be for the three girls. He realizes this as he looks back to see Lengel slaving away and looks around to find none of the girls have stayed behind to show their admiration.

Interested in reading the full story?

Follow this Link: http://www.tiger-town.com/whatnot/updike/

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Content Inspiration

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week

Take a look at the articles driving big conversations on Odyssey.


At Odyssey, we're on a mission to encourage constructive discourse on the Internet. That's why we created the response button you can find at the bottom of every article.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

Holidays With A Small Family

I wouldn't trade what we have for the world.

Matt Johnsn

When I was a kid I always went to my grandparents house whenever we celebrated any sort of holiday. We were a decently sized family and it was always a blessing to be in their house and surrounded by love during the holiday season. However, that all changed when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The family then began to drift apart and life went on, and we ended up all celebrating our own holidays with other family members.

Keep Reading... Show less

Safe Spaces Or Regressive Spaces?

Turns out shielding yourself from ideas can be detrimental to your ability to learn


College is a place for people who want to learn. That is the primary function of any academic institution. Its purpose is not to coddle us, nor should the community always be in agreement with us. We are supposed to surround ourselves with a variety of viewpoints that challenge us to learn, not the same repetitive points of view that make us happy.

Keep Reading... Show less

Black Friday is back to being Black Friday

This year, malls are standing up against Black Friday beginning on Thanksgiving. Doors won't be opening until Friday morning.


Last week my twitter feed was full of exclamations of how excited people were that our local mall, Westmoreland Mall would be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year. For those who work during the busy holiday days and hours, a celebration was in order. For the die-hard deal finders and shoppers though, they didn’t seem very happy.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?

There's been a recent boom in the popularity of vintage style looks and up-cycling thrifted finds to sell at, usually, an outrageous price. Is this ethical? Or does it defeat the whole purpose of thrifting in the first place?

Is Thrift Shopping *Actually* Ethical?

One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a tweet about upper-middle-class class people thrift shopping. I personally was against the up cycling/re-selling trend because I thought it to be greedy. Then, I began to see more and more tweets, and then stated to see ones about those who buy thrifted, name brand items and sell them for what they're actually worth instead of the very low price they got them for.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments