Think about the character of Sammy in "A&P." What traits (good or bad) does Sammy show? In what ways is he a “real” person? Is he less of a hero because he wants the girls to notice him?

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In John Updike 's short story "A&P," Sammy is portrayed in a very realistic manner. Since it is a first-person narrative, the reader has to decide how reliable Sammy's version of events is, but he seems trustworthy precisely because he does not portray himself as a hero or even a...

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In John Updike's short story "A&P," Sammy is portrayed in a very realistic manner. Since it is a first-person narrative, the reader has to decide how reliable Sammy's version of events is, but he seems trustworthy precisely because he does not portray himself as a hero or even a particularly coherent thinker.

Sammy's minute observation of the girls in bathing suits is central in establishing him as a convincing character. He is a nineteen year old boy without much experience of women. Every detail of the girls is thrilling to him, and the length of his description reflects how long his eyes have lingered on their exposed bodies. Even though Sammy's co-worker, Stokesie, is only three years older, he is already married with two children. Sammy and Stokesie initially react to the girls with the same slightly awkward facetiousness, but Stokesie quickly recovers his composure and takes a more responsible, adult attitude, asking if the girls' behavior is appropriate.

Sammy is curious and highly observant. He is also impulsive to the point of foolishness, frankly admitting that his motives are not entirely clear even to him. He wants the girls to notice him and is disappointed not to see them at the end of the story, a disappointment that quickly becomes more general, as he suddenly realizes "how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter." He is an anti-hero rather than a hero, but the flaws in his character are not particularly serious and principally reflect his youth. The reader may well sympathize and identify with him more readily than with more heroic figures.

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