Study Guide

A&P Principles

By John Updike


Sammy is a principled young man. He doesn't state his principles, but we can guess some of them by reading between the lines. For example, we can infer that Sammy respects people who aren't afraid to break with tradition, who think for themselves and go against the grain. He doesn't respect people who are mere followers, doing what everybody else does just because it's what they've been taught. This is in conflict with his manager Lengel's principles. Lengel is a Sunday school teacher whose actions and words suggest that he believes the public needs to be protected against near-nudity in inappropriate settings. Lengel also seems to believe that it's OK to publicly humiliate and threaten those who violate or challenge his principles.

Questions About Principles

  1. What are some of Sammy's principles? Lengel's? The girls'?
  2. What are some of your principles? Would you quit your job if one of those principles were violated?     
  3. Do any of Sammy's principles conflict with each other? What about Lengel's?

Chew on This

Lengel is justified in asking the girls to dress appropriately, but he violates principles of decency and kindness by insulting them.

At the beginning of the story, Sammy's principles aren't firm, but they develop over the course of the story.