The A and P

The A&P by John Updike is a short story about a teenage cashier working in a grocery store. While working here he sees three girls walk into the store in swimsuits.

The manager tells the girls they cannot come to the store dressed like that, because of this the boy decides to quit his job to appear as a hero to these girls who don’t even notice they quit. The story shows his impulsiveness by how distracted he was, by quitting, and by his leaving the store. Throughout the story the boy is very distracted with the girls in the store. As they walk through the store he simply watches them the whole time. Even though he has customers to take care of he can’t help but be totally focused on them and not on his work.

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At one point the main character mentions that because he was watching the girls so intently he had forgotten if he had rung up and item he was holding, he then proceeds to ring it up when a customer becomes angry that he had actually rung up the item twice. His thoughts were totally consumed with what the girls were doing in the store. These girls didn’t notice him at all but he gave his undivided attention to them. It is because of his impulsiveness that he allows himself to be so easily distracted. Possibly the most impulsive thing the main character does in this book is quitting his job.

He wants to appear as a hero for these girls by quitting his job on the principle of how his manager treated them, but the girls don’t even notice he quits, and just leave. His only real reason for quitting was to stand up for these girls in front of them. It can also be inferred that he really doesn’t care much about the actual principle but only the girls involvement, the only reason he said anything was because he found the girls walking into the store in bathing suits to be attractive, had a man walked into the store in tattered clothes and the manager commented the main character would probably not have care much about the principle. His goal wasn’t to stand for the principle as much as it was to simply impress these girls he had come to know in the last several minutes. After watching them intently for these last few minutes he could have felt like he had made a connection with them even though they never spoke, but that doesn’t mean it was worth risking his employment for on such a whim. If the main character had known that the girls would not hear his protest to his manager’s remark he most likely would not have gone through with terminating his own employment on such an impulse.

This impulsive decision was a failed attempt that ended up having more long-term consequences for him. Another mistake he made that contributed to his impulsiveness was actually leaving his job right then and there. After saying that he quit his job his boss asked what he just said and if he is sure that he wants to quit. This is basically a solution to the huge predicament the main character has just created for himself. His boss gives him plenty more chances to change his mind but he won’t swallow his pride and take his job back. Instead he holds to his argument and continues with quitting his job.

After doing this he runs out into the parking lot to find the girls were nowhere to be seen. Even while yelling a few times for them in desperation he knows they have left. He realizes that he has just lost his job to stand up for some girls he didn’t even know and has no idea where they went. Throughout the story it is evident how impulsive the character is. He so easily is able to stand for something without thinking of any extent of the future. Because of this he realizes later the mistakes he has made and how these small quick decisions will have longer consequences.

After walking into the parking lot and not seeing the girls he realizes exactly how big a mistake he has just made. If the main character had taken several seconds to consider the climatic decision of quitting his job he would of realized what a mistake he was about to make. This story shows the problems with his impulsive decisions but also impulsive decisions in general. A decision of great importance needs to be carefully thought out and considered rather than quickly decided making for a higher probability of a bad outcome.