John Updike's short story "A&P": The character of Sammy. How fully does Updike draw the character of Sammy? What traits (admirable or otherwise) does Sammy show? Is he any less a hero for wanting the girls to notice his heroism? To what extent is he more thoroughly and fully portrayed than the doctor in "Godfather Death"?

In John Updike's "A&P," the character of Sammy is more developed in some ways than others. We become acutely aware of his internal conflict through his observations in the store, including his assessment of Queenie. Other aspects of character development, such as Sammy's internal transformation, are less clear.

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Sammy is fairly well-developed as a character. He is, after all, the protagonist, so his internal emotions and struggles are developed particularly well. We can also surmise a few things about Sammy's background that aren't directly stated based on his reaction to the girls who wander through the A&P on his shift.

Part of Sammy's internal struggle is that he longs for something else. In Queenie and her friends, Sammy recognizes a freedom that he himself lacks. They wander the store with confidence, disregarding the social norms of the store. Sammy contrasts them with the "sheep" who push their buggies through the aisles, whose paths of conformance are interrupted by these girls "walking against the usual traffic," yet they snap their eyes back to their own baskets. Through his observations, we know that Sammy longs to live in the carefree and privileged world of Queenie and not align himself with people like Stokesie, whom Sammy notes already has "two babies chalked up on his fuselage already," even though he is barely older than Sammy.

We also see the immaturity in Sammy's observations. He is keenly (perhaps overly so) aware of the beauty of the girls, noting every detail from the texture of their swimsuits to the "bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones." He impulsively decides to quit his job in an intended grand romantic gesture that he hopes will capture the attention of Queenie and impress her, allowing a path for Sammy to enter her world. Yet his grand gesture falls flat, and it is only then that Sammy begins to realize some truth about his situation.

The author leaves Sammy's character growth—or lack thereof—greatly unknown, so we aren't sure if he really does transform as a result of this conflict. We know that his parents are depending on him to keep this job, and we know that his mother had ironed his work shirt for him the night before. Thus, Sammy is fairly reliant on his parents and their support, even at nineteen. Will this event change him? It's hard to say, and that final line can imply various outcomes for Sammy.

I would define a hero as someone whose actions place the needs of others above the self. I don't think Sammy's reaction falls into that category. Ultimately, I think his attempt to impress the girls is self-serving; he wants Queenie to notice him and therefore gain access to her world. This isn't heroic but selfish.

The physician in "Godfather Death" has similar character flaws. When given the opportunity to become king and marry a beautiful princess, he is willing to defy the laws of natural order in order to achieve his own ambitions. Depending on which version you read, he is also willing to sacrifice the life of a child in order to do so. Sammy's character is more developed because it is written from a first-person point of view, with more space allotted to his inner thoughts and conflicts.

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There are a lot of great questions being asked here, and they are all focused on Sammy's character. Sammy is a great character. Updike did a great job of capturing the hormone-driven, "cooler than you" attitude of a young male. Updike does this in a quick and efficient manner. Readers are clued into Sammy's attitude about his job, his boss, and the customers when he refers to the customers as sheep. That's not exactly a high compliment about the people that he is supposed to be gladly serving. As for how he views the girls, Updike has Sammy almost exclusively focus on their looks, their figures, their clothes, and so on. Basically, all that Sammy sees is the physical aspects of the girls. A modern-day reader might take issue with Updike and complain about blatant sexual objectification, but that wasn't something that the mainstream media talked about when Updike wrote this story.

As to whether or not Sammy is a hero, that is definitely up for debate. I could support calling his actions heroic, because he believes that he is coming to the girls' rescue. He believes that Lengel is acting poorly and being disrespectful to the girls. Sammy wants to protect the girls, and he believes that his quitting will somehow be an action that comes to their defense. Protecting someone else is incredibly heroic; however, it is generally assumed that heroic acts done by heroes are done for selfless reasons. Protecting the poor, weak, and/or innocent is reward in and of itself. Sammy's "heroic" actions are not selfless. He wants the recognition of the beautiful Queenie. He wants his actions to win her approval so that he can slide into her living room and be a part of her life. His heroic actions are selfish for sexual reasons, and that is hardly heroic. It's believable for a teenage boy, but it is not heroic.

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    The main character in John Updike's short story, "A&P," Sammy is an immature social misfit with very little (if any) experience with the opposite sex. Although that is not completely unusual for an awkward teenager, Sammy describes the girls who enter the grocery store as if he were looking at them in a second-rate girlie magazine. They are far from perfect--he points out all of their physical faults and refers to them as "sheep"--but they remain untouchable.  A common store clerk and cashier who is only hired to serve the customer, he sees "The Queen" as royalty.
    Sammy apparently has few admirable character traits. He has little respect or understanding of authority; his boss is just another worker with a door "marked MANAGER behind which he hides all day." Sammy is not yet ready for all the demands of the adult world, and when he sees the chance to become a hero in the girls' eyes by quitting in protest of their treatment at the hands of his boss, he makes his move. His action is hardly heroic, however, since he hates his job and only hopes it will give him a shot with the girls. But Sammy takes his time getting to the parking lot and finds the Queen and her court long gone.
    Sammy is no James Dean. He dislikes authority and is not ready to hold down a full-time job, but his actions are far from noble. They reek of immaturity and, though he knows his life will be tougher without the security and income of the A&P, he feels more comfortable in his schoolboy world of beaches and bathing suits.

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