Discuss the theme of coming of age as portrayed in John Updike’s shor story "A & P".  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Updike's short story "A & P" is a tale of painfully coming of age and facing manhood for Sammy, a cashier at the A & P grocery market. Sammy is motivated by hormonal admiration of girls who enter the store in summertime swimsuits and nothing else. His cashier stand is situated so he can watch their progress through the store with a minimum of impediment. Sammy analyzes their every movement. When they finally come to his check-out stand, he is mentally and emotionally on friendly terms with them.

When the store manager informs that girls that their attire (or, rather, lack of it) violates store policy and requires that he ask them to leave without being served, Sammy feels a chivalric stirring and defends them. They look bemused and quietly leave. Sammy goes one step further in his protest against the sanctity of--of what exactly no one ever knows--and gives his manager an ultimatum that will risk his ability to save up needed money for his future plans.

The manager accepts Sammy's challenge. Sammy turns in his apron and name tag. The manager fires him, after first trying to reason with him and talk sense into him. Sammy goes victoriously out into the parking lot expecting the girls to greet him as their conquering hero. Sammy finds a deserted parking lot and a rather foolish entry into manhood, knowing that the world will look a lot different from then on out.