In "A&P" by John Updike, what is Sammy's epiphany?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sammy's moment of understanding or epiphany comes when he is outside the A & P and looks back through the big windows. It is then that he realizes "how hard the world was going to be" for him.

After he quits his job at the grocery store in a chivalric gesture of defense which is meant to impress the three girls, Sammy looks around to see if they have noticed what he has done. However, "they're gone, of course." Sammy now takes a cynical view of his impetuous act of heroism which went unnoticed. Now Sammy wonders if he has acted foolishly by risking his job for girls who obviously did not care about him. Further, Sammy's remark about the challenges of the adult world demonstrates his new understanding that the world is complex, and he was not been prepared to enter it at this time.

As he stands alone outside the store and sees how easily Lengel has replaced him (by checking out the "sheep" himself), Sammy's remark about the challenges of the adult world demonstrates his new understanding that this world is more difficult than the one he has left because it demands compromises and rationality over emotionality. In his epiphany, Sammy knows he is not yet prepared to enter this world.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Firs, we have to understand what an epiphany is.  An epiphany is a moment of enlightenment or understanding.  Sammy, in this story, works in the A & P grocery store.  He is a typical teenager in many ways: bored with his job, interested in girls, wanting attention, etc.  When a group of girls come into the store and are not treated well (in Sammy's eyes), Sammy makes a choice that leads to his epiphany.  He decides to confront his boss about his treatment of the girls, hoping to gain attention from the girls and be a "hero."  When he does, he is fired.  When he leaves the store after he is fired, he is hoping to find the girls outside, waiting to shower him with their thanks, but they are not there.  This is when Sammy realizes that he has made a mistake and that he has done something foolish and finally, that the world will be a difficult place for him from this point onward.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of the day, Sammy says,"I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter." The author, John Updike, is pointing out how ordinary events, such as the three girls being scolded for their appearance, can become important moments in growing up. Sammy discovers he will simply expect a grateful world and he is now ready for new experiences that will teach him even more about life.

vskipper | Student

firstly the epiphany is simply that life will never be the same, Sammy has experienced a change in his life.

secondly, overanalysis should be made a literary sin.

Thirdly, anyone who claims to be a professor and then cannot get something as simple as whether a character quit or was fired, correct should not have a job. 

Sammy quit...twice.. the first time he said it under his breath. When Lengel asked him to repeat it he did and then Lengel told him that he doesn't want to do this to his parents... blah blah blah. He quit! He was NOT fired