A&P Questions and Answers
by John Updike

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In John Updike's short story "A&P," what theme or moral lesson is being expressed? 

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One of the themes that emerges in "A&P" is that actions often have unintended consequences.

Queenie and her friends casually enter the grocery store "in nothing but bathing suits." This behavior which lies outside the norms of expected public behavior catches not only the eye of Sammy, the narrator, but his store manager as well. Queenie has not really considered the ramifications of not properly dressing for grocery shopping; when confronted, she deeply blushes. As it turns out, Queenie doesn't mind being the center of attention which flatters her, but she doesn't expect to be reprimanded. In fact, she tries to challenge Lengel's definition of decency, but he doesn't budge. Queenie slinks out, defeated, and has learned a lesson about the consequences of not following expected social norms.

Sammy learns some of the most powerful lessons about consequences. It is clear that he quits his job at least in part to try to impress the girls:

I say "I quit" to Lengel quick enough for them to hear,...

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John Updike is trying to express that men shouldn't give up so much for women.  The story "A&P" was expressed to show men are above women.  Notice how the women in the bathing suits are only good for their bodies but once they speak, they become whiney and needy?  Women in the story aren't even given a voice until after a man shopping in the store is given a voice (and he isn't important and the focal point of the story).  This is because John Updike believed that's how women were.  Only good for pleasure.  Sammy would of never lost his job if he hadn't been trying to stand up for the women's rights in the story.  Sammy now regrets that he had quit his job because he one: lost his job and is now out of work and two: wasn't able to satisfy his needs.