by John Updike
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
Three girls in bathing suits walk into a grocery store.
The place: an A&P grocery store in a small Massachusetts town. The time: a Thursday afternoon in the early 1960s. Sammy, the 19-year-old narrator of "A&P," notices three bathing-suit-clad girls enter his store, which is otherwise mostly populated with middle-aged housewives.
The three girls in bathing suits walk around the grocery store.
Yes, the conflict is just an extension of the initial situation. People just didn't wear bathing suits in indoor public places. Sammy observes regular A&P customers shocked by the girls' choice of dress.
The manager arrives and tells the girls they are dressed inappropriately.
Things were going OK until Lengel the manager showed up. The girls are in Sammy's checkout lane preparing to pay and be on their way. But Lengel feels the need to tell them they aren't dressed right for the A&P
Sammy doesn't like the way Lengel treats the girls, so, after ringing them up, he quits his job. This is certainly a climactic moment in Sammy's life – the first time he's ever quit a job, and the story's big emotional moment.
Is Sammy serious, or will Lengel's threats make him change his mind?
"A&P" isn't really long enough to build much suspense, but there is a moment when we wonder whether Lengel will call Sammy's bluff and Sammy will stay at the A&P.
Sammy takes off his A&P apron and bow tie.
Sammy quits, leaving his A&P gear on the counter.
Sammy watches Lengel from outside the A&P.
The story ends with Sammy alone outside in the parking lot. As he watches his ex boss through the windows doing his old job, Sammy feels a sense of dread, a feeling that quitting his job really will make things harder for him in the future.