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Sammy, the narrator of Updike's "A&P" is not untypical for a nineteen-year-old, for he is both cynical and romantic. He notes that
A couple customers that had been heading for my slot begin to knock against each other like scared pigs in a chute.
While he notes that "women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car," they are
usually women with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs and nobody, including them, could care less.
But, when three young girls walk into the store in just their two-piece bathing suits, his cynical attitude changes: "Poor kids, I began to feel sorry to them" as McMahon "sizes up their joints." When the girls come to his counter, Sammy does not perceive them as pigs in a shoot. Instead, he describes a jar going heavy in his hand as
Still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nibbled pink top....Really, I thought that was so cute.
Sammy alternates in his comments about the customers between his cynicism and his romantic interest in the girls. Perhaps because a cynic is a disappointed idealist, Sammy's romantic views project an idealism onto the girls. At any rate, he wishes to be a hero for them. Rebelling against the constraints put upon the girls by the manager, and his perception of the other customers as sheep, he announces, "I quit," telling the manager "You didn't have to embarrass them."
However, once Sammy leaves the store, he looks "around for my girls, but they're gone, of course." Losing his romanticism, Sammy has an epiphany about what he has just done and what he has lost in addition to his job:
my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.
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