Can you provide a summary of "A&P"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"A&P" is a short story written by John Updike and first published in The New Yorker in 1961.

The story is set in an A&P grocery store in modern-day Massachusetts on a Thursday afternoon. The narrator, Sammy, is a teenager who is ringing up a customer's groceries when a trio of teenage girls wearing nothing but bathing suits walk into the store. Their appearance so startles Sammy that he accidentally rings up a box of crackers twice, earning him the irritation of his customer.

After Sammy finishes with his customer, he watches the girls as they walk among the store's aisles. He describes them in close detail: their bathing suits, bodies, skin, faces, and attitude. Sammy watches as other customers react non-verbally to the arresting sight of the scantily-clad girls. He notes that the store is at least five miles from a beach. The girls ask the meat department clerk a question, and he eyes them closely as they walk away.

The girls approach Sammy's checkout lane with a jar of herring in cream. The girl that Sammy has dubbed "Queenie" pays with a dollar bill she takes from her bikini top. The store manager, Lengel, comes over and gently chastises the girls for the skimpiness of their attire. Sammy imagines the swanky home of the girl. Two of the girls protest that they'd just stopped in to pick up a single item, but Lengel presses the issue that their bathing suits are not decent attire. Sammy rings up the purchase and gives the girl her change and her bagged herring snacks.

As the girls are exiting the store, Sammy tells Lengel "I quit" and that he objects to how Lengel embarrassed the girls. Lengel counters that the girls had embarrassed themselves and tells Sammy that he shouldn't do this to his parents, that he'll feel it for the rest of his life. Sammy takes off his uniform and leaves the store. He looks around for the girls, but they have gone. He watches, outside, as Lengel checks out customers and reflects on "how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial