What would be a good thesis statement for the epiphany Sammy had in John Updikes A&P short story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A good thesis for Sammy's epiphany in Updike's story should be a statement of how his life is affected by his decision to quit his job. When the teenaged Sammy acts impulsively in what he feels is a chivalrous act, he finds himself thrust into a world that is more complicated than he previously imagined.

Certainly, there is a new awareness of the world that impresses itself upon Sammy after he boldly quits his job to impress the girls who have immodestly entered the A & P grocery store in their swimsuits. On one hand, Sammy's action is in response to his cynicism about the adult world. This world that he perceives is populated with "houseslaves in pin curlers" with "varicose veins mapping their legs" who drive their shopping carts down the aisle "like sheep." Sammy describes one of the women that he particularly dislikes, calling her a "cash-register watcher." He faults her by remarking, "I know it made her day to trip me up."

On the other hand, the young Sammy is driven by his romantic vision of the teenaged girls who enter the store in their swimsuits. He finds Queenie particularly seductive:

...what got me, the straps were down....there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones....I mean, it was more than pretty.

After he overhears the manager of the A&P, Mr. Lengel, tell the girls that they cannot enter the store because they are not "decently dressed," Sammy impulsively tells his boss that he quits, adding that Lengel should not have embarrassed the girls by speaking to them as he has. Mr. Lengel warns Sammy:

"I don't think you know what you're saying....You'll feel this for the rest of your life."

Thereafter, Sammy impulsively pulls off his apron, punches the "No Sale" button on his cash register, and goes outside where he looks for the girls. However, the girls are gone. It is then that Sammy comments that he "...felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter."

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short story "A&P" by John Updike has several topics to consider for a thesis statement. This is a story that combines the challenges of self-esteem, identity, the want to be accepted, the breaking of rules, and the consequences of our actions.

If you were to pick one of those themes, for instance, the consequences of our actions, you could start a thesis statement that could read:

The short story "A&P", by John Updike, treats a challenging aspect of adolescence: Social acceptance versus social choices. The main character is placed in a situation where he can choose to create short-lived reputation in front of his peers versus losing his job as a result of it. When he chooses the latter, he must face the consequences that come as a result of placing social acceptance as the most important choice.

When you think about it, our main character is a young kid who has to work and is not able to enjoy himself during the Summer. As the young girls with bathing suits enter the store, he is placed in a somewhat embarrassing situation where he gets to see his peers enjoying themselves, while he has to work. Somehow, this young man must show that he is also capable of being "cool" by being insubordinate to his manager in favor of the girls. He is fired, and is left with nothing- the girls leave the store as they would have, with or without his scene, anyways.

Yet that tiny moment of control might have given him the only chance to save some dignity. That is what makes all the difference in him, although we know that his choice is rather poor.