What are some comparisons between Lengel and Sammy in "A and P" by John Updike?
There are a number of ways that Sammy differs from his manager, Lengel: in age, in position, in sexual drive, in experience versus naivete.
First of all, Lengel seems immune to the girls' sexuality, unlike Sammy. While Sammy is floored by their beauty, Lengel chastises the scantily clad teenagers. He makes it a point to act in an authoritarian manner: "Girls, this isn't a beach," he says, not once but twice. Then, "I don't want to argue with you. After this come in here with your shoulders covered," Lengel warns.
Lengel seems like a stiff, and he is in many ways, but unlike Sammy he knows the consequences that will follow rash action. When Sammy impetuously declares, "I quit!" it is Lengel who has the foresight to know not only how much his family will disapprove, but also how Sammy "will feel this for the rest of his life."
Sammy has probably made the right choice, unlike Lengel who long ago gave up hope of a meaningful future, but perhaps when he recalls the affect of youthful decisions and can only warn of the residual affects. Sammy, like all young people, though, must learn through his own trial and error. It is impossible to teach experience.
Lengel and Sammy are alike in the way that Sammy describes him: " . . . he doesn't miss that much." Sammy is equally observant, judging from both his detailed descriptions of the people that come to shop at the A&P, including the way they look and what they purchase, and his co-workers.
Also like Lengel, Sammy understands that there are unwritten social codes in their town. He observes that "the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street." Because at nineteen Sammy is considerably younger than Lengel, he is intrigued by the girls' audacity in appearing in the store in bathing suits. Lengel, however, wastes no time chastising the girls for their revealing attire.
It can also be said that Lengel and Sammy are both men who will stand on principle. Sammy does not approve of Lengel rebuking the girls, and so he quits the A&P, whereas Lengel goes out of his way to demand decorum in the store he manages.