Looking back to the story's climatic point in which Sammy says, "I quit" what other passages are related to this one?John Updike's "A & P"  

2 Answers | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Sammy's rebellious and, to him, romanticized chivalrous line, "I quit" has several defining moments that lead up to his act in which he tries to protect the girls from the world of adults. 

  • For instance, his term for one, "Queenie," indicates that he has placed the girls on a level that is romanticized. 
  • When the girls reach McMahon and ask him something, "old McMahon" pats his mouth and looks after them "sizing up their joints."  Sammy's reacts by thinking, "Poor kids, I began to feel sorry for them, they couldn't help it." (He feels the chivalric need to protect theme)
  • Sammy's infatuation increases when Queenie pulls the folded dollar bill from her suit:  "Really, I though that was so cute."
  • As Sammy watches Lengel, the manager, rebellious ideas take root.  Disapproving of Lengel's comment to the girls that "this isn't the beach" and noticing Lengel's dislike for his own smiling, Sammy resents Lengel's giving the girls "that sad Sunday-school-superintendent stare."
  • Like the grail and its aura of light, Sammy sees "Fancy Herring Snacks flashed in her very blue eyes."  Distracted Sammy notices people watching the girls.  When Lengel asks him if he has rung up the girls' purchases, he says "no," but

it wasn't about that I was thinking....it's more complicated than you think...

and before the girls leave, Sammy utters his heroic "I quit" quickly enough for the girls to hear him as he hopes they will stop and look.  However, they keep on going, and Sammy ends up in some kind of limbo between the two worlds himself. 


booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If I had to choose a line that is as intense and course-altering as "I quit" is, I believe I would choose, "You'll feel this for the rest of your life." I would also point out the line, "...my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter."

All these statements point to a change of direction in the story's plot, and seem directly related to the "rite of passage" theme this story presents.

Prior to these statements, Sammy, our author, is simply a kid working a summer job. He has little to worry about but stocking shelves or ringing up grocery purchases. Life is relatively easy for him, and he reacts with the impulsivity of youth out of a sense of "honor" he feels in order to defend the girls.

To be accurate, the action might be defending the girls, but the intent is to put himself "out there," to take a stand and define, in some unconscious way, who he is and what is important in his life: this may be as simply as being true to his sense of fair play.

The time during which the girls walk through the store is representative of Sammy's innocence. When he quits, he walks through the "door" that takes him to the other side—to awareness...the first step of his journey to growing up.

Each statement is an absolute: there is no half-way here. For Sammy, it's all or nothing, and we find he is an "all" kind of guy.

We’ve answered 317,624 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question