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Can Sammy's decision to quit be seen as a positive one?(Explain how it might be...

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mesquitefootball | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 1, 2011 at 7:10 AM via web

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Can Sammy's decision to quit be seen as a positive one?

(Explain how it might be interpreted as a gesture to break with conformity, to be independent, and to do the right thing.)

"A & P" by John Updike

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 1, 2011 at 9:52 AM (Answer #1)

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Sammy's act of quitting in John Updike's "A & P" is an affirmation of his individuality.  What has most impressed him about the girls after he has been physically attracted to Queenie, who is "more than pretty," is the aplomb that Queenie especially exhibits.  Influenced by her display of courage and self-confidence when she retorts to Lengel's accusation, "We are decent," Sammy desires to impress her by emulating her.  At the same time, however, Sammy evaluates Lengel's words about the policy of having their shoulders covered:

That's policy for you.  Policy is what the kingpins want.  What the others want is juvenile delinquency.

Thus, at the tender age of nineteen, Sammy realizes how many people are "sheep," and how many are intimidated by any confrontation whether they are involved or not. As he watches the customers knock against each other, "like scared pigs in a chute," scurrying to check out after Lengel's confrontation with them, he makes up his mind to quit. So, while quitting may not be a wise decision on Sammy's part, his act is certainly an authentic one.  It is, indeed, a declaration of a thinking mind, not that of a "sheep." Moreover, while Sammy is unwilling to make the comprise that is needed in order to navigate in the adult world, he has at least made an existentially authentic act of individuality--a very positive move.

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