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His remark “They didn’t even have shoes on” shows how struck he is by their near nakedness.He is particularly attracted to the leader of the three, whom he dubs Queenie, carefully noting her long white legs and the fact—no doubt every erotic—that she has her shoulder straps down, which leaves an exquisiteexpanse of bare flesh from just above her chest to her neck, which he describes as “this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light.Maybe he will be able to strike up a conversation with her outside the store! “A&P” is the most well-known of Updike’s hundreds of stories, and he was often asked about it.
However, some small details in the story give some clues that it was in fact written in a different era from the present. He is only twenty-two years old yet is already a married man with two children, which likely means that he married very young indeed, perhaps around the age of twenty.In first person narration, the narrator can write only of what he or she sees, hears, thinks, feels, knows, or is told directly.Other characters in the story can be known only through what they do, as seen by the narrator; what they say within his or her earshot; what others may say about them; and the opinions the narrator has about them.Finally, the general point should be made that the 1950s and earliest years of the 1960s are often depicted as times of conformity. Updike certainly had this in mind when he wrote the story. Murray (available from that in those days, during the late years of the Eisenhower administration and early Kennedy years, “people were expected to conform,” although there was also an“undercurrent of rebellion” and “voices of dissent” in figures such as novelist Jack Kerouac, poet Allen Ginsberg, and movie actor James Dean. The perspective, therefore, is that of a young person—his thoughts, feelings, observations, and actions.Had Updike chosen to tell it from Lengel’s point of view (or Queenie’s, for that matter, or Stokesie’s), it would have been a very different story.“He’ll be known perhaps as a quitter,” Updike said, adding that what Sammy does is a kind of “feminist protest.” 4.How important is the historical context in understanding this story, which was first published in 1961?He would love to get to know her, it would seem, and this is at least part of the reason why he quits his job with such a flourish.He wants to make an impression on Queenie, and he hopes she witnesses his gallant action.He looks all three of them up and down, taking in their physical characteristics: the shape of their bodies, the color of their skin and hair.This is a sudden and unexpected treat for him; after all, it is the A&P store, not the beach, and this is just not what one would expect to see in this environment.