John Updike’s short story “A&P” has often been read as a story of initiation, in which the narrator and central character learns some important lessons about the nature of life. Sammy himself seems to interpret the story in this way, as he suggests when, in his final comment, he says,
my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.
In other words, Sammy seems to think that he has learned a lesson in the painful ways of the world. By sacrificing his job in order to stand up for the young woman who (Sammy thinks) has been insulted by Sammy’s boss, Sammy believes he has learned that the world can be harsh and unjust.
According to some critics, Sammy’s final comment is typical of the...
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