A&P Summary

A&P Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  Keep reading for an expert-written summary and analysis of A&P by John Updike.

Table of Contents
Summary
Summary Part 2




The story “A&P” by John Updike opens with little introduction of the main character, who is, as we find out later in the story, named Sammy. The narrator works at a small grocery store in a little town that borders a high-end resort called the Point. We also find out that the setting of “A&P” is just north of Boston, thus the reader can imagine that it is a tiny seaside village amid more expensive areas. Throughout the short story, class tensions created by this setting become clearer.

The narrator is working at the check-out of the A&P when three girls, obviously from the wealthy nearby Point come in. They are wearing nothing but their bathing suits and are making a spectacle of themselves as they saunter through the aisles, clearly aware that their presence is creating a stir. The narrator, Sammy, describes the physical appearance of the girls in extraordinary detail, which makes the reader feel that he is probably ogling them—staring them down and letting his eyes freely wander all over them as they walk around. In fact, a great deal of the story, at least well over half of it, is taken up by physical descriptions of the girls and how they contrast with the ho-hum citizenry, including “house slaves in pin curlers” who are at the store.

Stoksie, another clerk at the store, exchanges words with Sammy as they admire the physical beauty of the girls but he quickly gets back into his “married man” mode and back to work. Sammy is particularly taken with the one girl he nicknames “Queenie” due to the elegant way she carries herself.

The narrator of “A&P” by John Updike continues his story, which has up until this point in the story, been a blow-by-blow summary of what the girls were doing in the store until a paragraph breaks and he says, “Now here comes the sad part of the story, at least my family says it’s sad but I don’t think it’s sad myself.” The reader pays close attention for something that might be saddening, only to find that he goes on to talk about how empty the store is. Queenie and her friends come to the counter and hands a jar of Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream (a product that the narrator spells out completely, signifying and reinforcing how out of the ordinary and “fancy” it is) to Sammy to be rung up. She then reaches into her bikini top and pulls out a dollar, which almost Sammy thinks is “cute” and makes the jar feel heavy in his hands.