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In Updike's "A & P," Sammy identifies Queenie with images of purity, such as the...

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laceyk | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 22, 2010 at 3:28 AM via web

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In Updike's "A & P," Sammy identifies Queenie with images of purity, such as the sour cream and the clear as water drinks. What does this tell us about Queenie?  What does this tell us about Sammy?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 22, 2010 at 6:33 AM (Answer #1)

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Sammy's descriptions only tell us what Sammy thinks about Queenie. References like "drinks clear as water" and "ice-cream coats and bow ties" imply that Sammy is envisioning Queenie's actual life: beyond this encounter in the store. He imagines her as part of some idyllic/ideal upper-class lifestyle. Sammy gives her the name Queenie because she seems to be leading the girls around but also because he's put her on this pedestal. I wouldn't say that purity is implicated here as much as things like privilege and plain old sexual attraction. There is a kind of misogyny here, objectification, but Sammy's infatuation with Queenie is more than that. Although he does treat her as a symbol of "the better life" and a sexual object, he is also interested in impressing her on principle as well - more than his boss or any of the other customers.

What does this tell us about Sammy? He is 19 and this moment of an epiphany (if it can really be called this) was initiated by a girl in a bathing suit in the A & P. Much has been said about this story, comparable to The Catcher in the Ryeand "Araby." Sammy, (like Holden Caulfield) asserts his individuality, quitting his job, knowing the ramifications it will have for him: on principle and/or to impress a girl. I always thought that Sammy was putting Queenie up on such a pedestal for the added reason that she would be a part of this moment in his life. Then he would remember this act of chivalry with pride. Queenie doesn't notice this, which could mean any number of things: she's unappreciative or she simply was trying to get out of the store because she was embarrassed, and didn't notice.

For Sammy, this seems like it is the first time, he'd chosen the unacceptable path and he's probably stoked that it happened in defense of a queen.

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