In "A&P," the narrator assigns character traits to the girls based on their appearance and body language. Compare the narrator's description of Queenie and the tall girl. Do you think this is an accurate way to assess other people? How are appearances related to how people perceive each other?

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Sammy describes the girls based on their bodies but also on their movements and general deportment. He refers to one of them as "Queenie" because she seems to be the leader. His description of Queenie is thoroughly admiring. Even features which might otherwise be regarded as flaws are attractive to...

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Sammy describes the girls based on their bodies but also on their movements and general deportment. He refers to one of them as "Queenie" because she seems to be the leader. His description of Queenie is thoroughly admiring. Even features which might otherwise be regarded as flaws are attractive to him. He observes that her neck looks rather long and "stretched" but then concludes by saying that he didn't mind: "The longer her neck was, the more of her there was."

This contrasts sharply with Sammy's description of the tall girl, of whom he is much less appreciative. He concludes a list of her physical imperfections by saying that she is "the kind of girl other girls think is very 'striking' and 'attractive' but never quite makes it."

The Greek word kalos means beautiful but also noble and good, reflecting an age-old belief that physical beauty reflects moral worth. However often we are told that this is not the case, the illusion is remarkably persistent. However, there are clearly things one can judge from appearances. Sammy quits his job partly to impress the girls, which shows that he has failed to make a fairly obvious deduction from appearances: girls who wander round a grocery store in bikinis without realizing the effect this has on other people are probably quite self-absorbed. As one might predict, they do not even notice his attempt to make a grand gesture. Beyond simple observation of the body, you can make reasonable guesses about someone's character and attitude from the way he or she walks, from facial expressions, from clothing (or lack of it), and from various other physical cues. The resulting assessments will not be very profound and may well be inaccurate but, in the case of strangers, more reliable information is often unavailable, unless we overhear their conversations.

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