by John Updike
A&P Theme of Society and Class
Class is a big issue in "A&P." Sammy divides up the various people he comes into contact with into socioeconomic classes. He himself is a working-class young man. By contrast, Queenie, the name he gives to the leader of the bathing-suit trio, is a rich girl who, after a hard day romping at the beach and lounging by the pool, comes into the store to buy cocktail snacks for her mom. At least, that's how Sammy sees her. Lengel, the manager, is somewhere in between. Though he undoubtedly earns more than Sammy, he also has more responsibility and probably still struggles to get by. Sammy classifies the rest of the people in the store as "sheep" – followers who all dress, act, talk, and think alike. The story is driven by the dynamics among these various classes.
Questions About Society and Class
- What economic class do you feel you belong to? Is your class represented in the story?
- What can you tell about someone's social and economic class from what they wear? What can you tell from what they buy? Do you think that Sammy is making unfair assumptions about the girls in the A&P?
- How much of Sammy's fascination with Queenie comes from her social class? Would the story be different if the bathing-suit girls were all from his social circle?
Chew on This
Sammy's boss tries to exploit him by threatening him with a lowered social status if he quits his job.
The story suggests that people in Queenie's social and economic class have less restrictive views on clothing than the other A&P shoppers, who are largely middle and working class.