Gestures of protest are very normal in our time. They are usually made to protest a wrongdoing or supporting a cause easily labeled. Like so many short stories, John Updike's "A & P- is primarily a story of initiation, as a young boy moves from innocence or ignorance to experience or knowledge. "Updike shows the difference in general between romantic fantasy and tainted reality, leading to an emotional fall- (Saldivar 215). "We can characterize Sammy as a good-natured average boy with a vague preface for beauty, liberty, youth, and recklessness as against the stultifying cant of a stodgy civilization- (McFarland 96).
Since "A & P- is a story of one individual's gestures of protest on an issue extremely hard to define with precision, these motives are building as our story unfolds. Sammy is a good natured, average boy not even particularly restless in his boring job. He manages to find amusement in his work by making sarcastic observations of customers, by exchanging irreverent barter with Stokesie, his fellow worker, by ogling girls. When the three girls in bathing suits come into the store, they hook the slack potentials of his character in the most natural way. He is stirred by the beauty of the girl he calls Queenie, by her air of class and by the sweet disorder of her attire, the lowered straps of her bathing suit and exposure of un-tanned skin on her breasts. "The story calls attention not to the tone of nostalgia but the brashness of his colloquialism- (Greiner 297). Sammy's sympathy with the teenyboppers is established immediately by the contrast between the girls and the typical cash register watcher. "A & P- finally turns out to be another story of a character caught in the middle between romance and realism, and beginning to learn the lessons of bittersweet triumph.
Updike's character, Sammy, possesses the power to be deeply moved by the presence of beautiful objects. "It is beauty that confounds the issue when human aesthetics come into play- (Wells 127) that is when the confusion arises.