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Character traits and behavior will determine whether a person becomes a hero or a villain. Many actions are caused by incidents inside a piece of literature. Sammy is the protagonist of John Updike's short story A & P, as he determines the storyline and is the central character in the literary work. In terms of traits and attitudes, he matures. Given his actions, Sammy struggles to achieve heroism in the literature piece. Sammy becomes judgmental and behaves in an immoral and ignorant way.
Sammy makes disparaging and racist comments to a subset of the consumers. In the subject of whom and who not to wear bath suits, the protagonist takes issue with older females donning bath suits. In his arguments, they looked less presentable compared to those young females in the store “…these are usually women with six children and varicose veins mapping their legs…” (Updike 20) these remarks do not depict the protagonist as a hero rather as an ignorant and judgmental character. The character also uses discriminatory remarks to an older woman and refers to her as being evil. The young females in birth suits distract the protagonist in that the sight of the older woman makes him aggravated to an extent of refereeing her to a witch “…if she'd been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem…” (18). In contrast to the old woman, he refers to the young females in suit as attractive despite the older female being decently dressed. The age of the protagonist may be the reason as to why he reacts in the manner he did but is not a justification to discriminate and use abusive language against the older females.
Sammy is also unethical in the manner in which he handles himself in the store. The society highlights ethics and moral behaviors among the population. In this case, Sammy’s boss is symbolically used to represent the societal expectations given apart from being the A&P boss, he is a religious leader. His reaction upon sighting the females is a reflection of the religious and cultural setting. Sammy, on the other hand, reacts in a manner that goes against the norms. In his defense, Sammy refers to Lengel reaction as unfair “… giving the girls that sad Sunday school superintendent stare…” (21) To Sammy, the girls are justified in wearing the bath suits despite it being against religion and the cultural setting. The decision to stand for the girls highlights his moral stands. Sammy symbolically represents modernity in that it poses threat to the traditional setting. In his decision to go against his boss and his negative remarks geared towards the old customer Sammy remains unethical both in his line of duty and in the societal standards. In his personal views, the protagonist describes himself as a hero but in the ethical aspect, he may be considered a rebel. The society set standards and whoever fails may be considered unethical that is the case for the three young females and their activists Sammy.
Sammy’s decision to quit his job is not thought through and is not an act of heroism. The dialogue between Lengel represents on one side a defiant employee and on the other hand a conservative employer. While working for A&P, the society expects the protagonist to work based on the set standards, the young females present a sense of ethical dilemma. The protagonist feels appropriate to quit his job as a way of displaying his dissatisfaction on the manner in which the boss treats the young females. The females fail to acknowledge the actions by Sammy as they feel embraced and exit the store. Sammy’s boss describes the decision to quit his job as an embracement to his parents “…you don't want to do this to your Mom and Dad....” (22) The statements highlight the moral standards and societal expectations which Sammy had failed to adhere to while at the store. Sammy’s decision to quit his job is not well thought through given the boss is afraid his parents may directly be affected by his decision. Despite rising issues of unfairness, the protagonist ignores the firm’s policies. While confronting the young females the boss clearly outlines the existing regulations “…come in here with your shoulders covered. It's our policy.” (21) The boss was justified to confront the young females while on the other hand the protagonist lacks any grounds while making his decisions.
In conclusion, Sammy is a rebel and not a hero. The protagonist fails to adhere to the work ethics as he revolts against his boss and performs contrary to the store policy. Sammy discriminates against gender given his remains aimed at the old woman at the store. The character bases his argument on personal views and ignores culture and religious concepts. In this case, he ignores what culture and religion teach about dressing. The character also lacks second thought as he quits his job without considering the implication to his parents. In the end, the females fail to appreciate Sammy’s action thus his protest was in vain.
Updike, John. “A&P.” A Prentice Hall Pocket Reader Literature. Edited by Balkun M. Mary, ,Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006, pp. 19-23. Print
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