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Sammy the Insensitive Cashier

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ENG 102 Darren Robbins
Sammy the Insensitive Cashier
First person narrators have a tendency to tell us their story as they see it, whether it is believable, is for us to decide. That is exactly what happens, when John Updike, chose Sammy, a 19-year-old, cashier at the A & P to narrate the story, “A&P”. As a result, Sammy’s story becomes doubtful, because his behavior towards everyone is a bit erratic. He calls most of the patrons "sheep" or followers, making them impossible to tell apart. Therefore, they become nonessential characters, to represent an era of conformity in America. Since Updike, elected to have a first person narration from Sammy, it allows us to directly, see his hatred for traditionalism and his derogatory views of the people, in his tiny hometown. Thus, due to his lack of restraint on making immature judgments of others, and his urge to act on impulses, one cannot sympathize with Sammy. It becomes clear that Sammy is an unsympathetic narrator, when he uses hasty and most of all uncalled-for observations. As a result, we can conclude, that he judges others solely based on their looks. Apparently, Sammy has never heard the saying; don’t judge a book by its cover. As the story begins, “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits” (539). Sammy standing at the register first sees them when they reach the bread. He first describes “the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can…” (540). As he takes note of the three girls, he sees “the queen… [with] a kind of prim face. Walking into the A&P with your straps down, I suppose it’s the only kind of face you can have” (540). Despite the fact, that the interpretations composed of the girls are not the only ones made, they are the most prominent ones. In addition, Sammy makes a very insensitive assumption of an ill-fated individual, who’s possibly just going through a rough patch in his life. The man “in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice” He wonders to himself “what do these bums do with all that pineapple juice?” (542). Here is a man whom Sammy does not personally know, as is probably the case with most of his customers, nonetheless, to make a judgment so loosely, he deserves no kind of compassion in my eyes. Contrary to his belief, Sammy’s weakness is his predisposition to put a label on every individual, and to go against the norm of society. The fact that, Sammy, needs to be amused while at work shows that he lacks a certain degree of maturity. Conceivably, it is his monotonous job of ringing up items that causes him to criticize the patrons of A & P thus, becoming his only source of entertainment. One female customer comes through his line as he says, “She’s one of those cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows…she’d been watching cash registers for fifty years and probably never seen a mistake before” (540). Later when he turns his attention back to the girls going up and down the aisle, he notices, “the sheep pushing their carts down the aisle – the girls were walking against the usual traffic…were pretty hilarious” (541). So, Sammy has shown us that he condones this kind of behavior and finds it entertaining. He later says, “women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they even get out the car into the street” (541), therefore, making it apparent that the girls ignore the rules and are opposed to the customs of this tiny town. Meanwhile, the customers of A & P are oblivious to Sammy’s slandering comments about them. It is the tedious work of a cashier that eventually causes Sammy’s downfall. Sammy’s constant boredom, affects his ability to be cordial, causing him to be extremely, judgmental, of everyone around him. Hence, the acknowledgment, when he says, “the store’s pretty empty, it being Thursday afternoon, so there was nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up again” (541). After the girls find what they were looking for and are ready to check out, they find themselves in line at his register. It is then; he sees a can of fancy herring in Queenie’s hand, as this reminds him of a more refined life. He pictures, “Her father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties, and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big glass plate…” (542). Queenie and Lengel, who is the store manager, discuss whether they are appropriately dressed. “We are decent,’ Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy” (542). Thus, again, Sammy makes a judgment about Queenie, which in turn makes her look like she is disparaging, about the people of this town, when in fact, he does not even know, if she feels this way. Sammy’s displeasure with his job and the drabness of it causes him to boldly quit, and defending the girls, because in his mind they were belittled by his dreary manager, Lengel. He feels this was his chance to be their hero, and perhaps this was his way into the better life that he was searching for. However, that is not the case when he leaves the store after them, only to find they are nowhere in sight. At the end, when Sammy realizes the mistake he made was going to have a major impact on his life, I can see why someone would want to sympathize. However, it was he, who walked out on his job only to try to impress some girl, whom he did not even know. Taken into consideration that he did not get fired for his actions, and that his demeanor towards everyone around him is repulsive, how can anyone feel sorry for him. Sammy says “my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (544). His reflection is ironic because he worries about how everyone is going to judge him; however, he was the one doing all the judging of people throughout his time at the store. The so-called drama, he is experiencing was created solely by his actions, not anyone else. Thus, we cannot express any kind of sympathy for him.

Works Cited
Meyer, Michael. “Stories for Further Reading.” Introduction to Literature/A&P, 9 Ed. John Updike. Boston. Bedford/ST. Martins. 2012. 539-544. Print.…...

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