A&P Questions and Answers
by John Updike

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In "A & P," consider the attitude expressed toward the girls by both Sammy and Lengel.  Whose attitude do you find more appealing? In "A & P," consider the attitude expressed toward the girls by both Sammy and Lengel.  Whose attitude do you find more appealing?

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As Updike's story considers many of the themes central to adolescence, there is clearly the motif of the generational gap running through "A & P" with Lengel representing the conventionality of adulthood and Sammy as rebellious and impetuous youth.  Sammy's perception of the adults as "sheep" and "scared pigs in a chute" as they come through the checkout lane indicates the compromises that many an adult has made in his/her life. In contrast, there is something romantic and chivalric in Sammy's character. Truly, there is always something in the maverick of society that appeals to all of us.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is clear that Sammy finds the entrance of the girls in their bathing suits something that represents liberation and defies the order of rules and regulations that seem to fill his life. For Lengel, on the other hand, the girls represent an anti-establishment force that needs to be quashed, as is shown by the way that he challenges them, and, Sammy feels, embarrasses them. The two views are perhaps best expressed in the following quote:

"Girls, I don't want to argue with you. After this come in here with your shoulders covered. It's our policy." He turns his back. That's policy for you. Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.

As to which viewpoint I agree with more, I must admit that as I have grown up and become older, I do appreciate Lengel's viewpoint, even though I would probably side with Sammy overall. As you get older you come to appreciate the need for rules and regulations and "policy," although I still think that there is a danger that such things can become oppressive and take away spontaneity and freedom from our lives if we are not careful.

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desertblossom | Student

What separates them?