Three girls enter a grocery store called A&P. This particular location is apparently close to the beach or some body of water where people recreate. A young man is a cashier working the register and when the girls are checking out the manager tells the girls they need to come in to the store dressed more covered up. The young man thinks one of the three girls is beautiful; he calls her a “Queenie”. He takes offense at his manager’s comment to the girls so he quits. He hopes the girls notice and are impressed but they just walk out without noticing young man’s sacrifice.
The young man makes a sacrifice for the young ladies. He takes a stand but nobody acknowledges his stand. His manager expresses disappointment for him but also says how much his parents will be disappointed with him. When he left the store he expected the young ladies to be outside the store appreciating him for his sacrifice. Outside the store none of the young ladies were in sight. Standing up for others may come with negative consequences and no praise. But, we should stand up for others if it’s in our heart to do. Expect standing up to be the reward in itself; expect nothing more.
This story was written in 1961. Updike reveals an appalling reality which still exists in certain parts of US society, namely, men want to control women’s bodies. The manager, Lengel, tells three young women they should come into the store with more clothing on. The store was “five miles from a beach.” Five miles is not five blocks but it is still close enough to still have a swim suit on when entering a store. They simply entered the store, picked up their products, and went to the checkout to purchase their goods. They did not linger to seduce anyone in the store although some of the men were challenged to control their urges. But, is that their fault? This story highlights one of the problems with society: people should allow female to control and manage their own body without anyone else’s say or permission.
Updike interview: https://youtu.be/DumbzfwiiJU