A teenage boy finds himself in conflict with his boss in John Updike's "A&P." The story begins as Sammy, the protagonist, becomes engrossed with three girls who enter the grocery store wearing two-piece bathing suits. Sammy and his co-workers take notice of the girls as they walk through the store. When the antagonist, Sammy's boss, confronts the girls about being inappropriately dressed, Sammy quits his job in their defense. Updike uses Sammy to demonstrate a coming of age theme by effective use of plot elements, such as exposition, crisis and climax.
The exposition occurs in the first paragraph when Sammy becomes aware of the three girls entering the store. "In walks three girls in nothing but bathing suits" (Updike 12). Updike provides intricate details cluing the reader in to the setting and introducing Sammy as the narrator, as well as causing the reader to become suspicious as to what will happen to the girls. Critics draw attention to the fact that "Updike has found a voice of singular appropriateness for his narrative consciousness - a boy of nineteen from a working-class background who is working as a checkout clerk at the local A&P grocery store" (Magill 915). The age of Sammy is effective because it allows him to learn and grow. The details provided in the exposition go into great specification and provide a smooth transition into the rising action.
The rising action is hidden amongst the detailed descriptions of the girls, but becomes evident in the fifth paragraph. Sammy says that "[Queenie] must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn't tip" (Updike 13). This incident adds to the suspense by creating wonder about what will happen when Sammy and the girls actually come face-to-face with one another. Critics also observe the suspicion created through the attraction that takes place "when three young women pass the boy's register, [and Sammy] is enchanted by 'the queen', a girl who appears 'more than pretty'" (Magill 2335).