Example of an “Unreliable” Narrator in story “A&P” Analysis

Read Summary

In A&P, the story takes place in a small New England town’s grocery store, and Sammy, the cashier, narrates the story in first-person. Sammy is an example of an unreliable narrator, meaning that his opinions should be considered rather than simply accepted. He embodies the personality of a young bigoted juvenile male, as shown through his criticism of three scandalously dressed teenage girls in the store. Sammy’s thoughts on the daily customers and his insults towards the girls’ intelligence and physical appearance further display his narrow-minded and selfish mindset. The story is clearly narrated with an unreliable perspective, as Sammy’s narration of his own opinions completely directs the plot.

Table of Content

The story “A&P” takes place in the A&P grocery store, located in a small New England town. The narration is in first person by Sammy the cashier. Sammy is a typical example of an “unreliable” narrator. An unreliable narrator is a storyteller who is a complete character in the story and whose opinions must be considered rather than simply accepted. For example, Sammy’s comment on the unknowability of the female mind should be taken as a statement in a character’s opinion and not as a statement of Updike’s outlooks on the topic.

A more substantial example is Sammy’s statement that “once you begin a gesture it’s fatal not to go through with it. ”(528). This quote is not a message by Updike, but simply a remark by the young naive boy. Updike truly embodies the personality of a young bigoted juvenile male. When Sammy finally notices the 3 girls in the store, he immediately criticizes them. The way he describes the first girl is clearly the product of a teenage boy. “She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the back of her legs. (Updike 524). If the narrator was the older man and owner of the store, the perspective would have been considerably different.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Sammy continues to describe each scandalously dressed teenage girl. He is so distracted by them that he cannot remember if he rang up a box of crackers or not. As it turns out, he did ring them up, a fact that his customer, “a witch about fifty,” lets him know quickly and loudly (Updike 524). Sammy goes on with his normal routine of cashing out customers. His typical teenage mentality is displayed when he reveals his thoughts on the daily customers. Slots three through seven are unmanned and I can see her wondering between Stokes and me, but Stoksie with his usual luck draws an old party in baggy gray pants who stumbles up with four giant cans of pineapple juice (what do all these bums do with all that pineapple juice? I’ve so often asked myself) so the girls come to me. (Updike 527)

Another example to support that the narrator has an unreliable perspective, is the way he judges the girls. After describing them as if they were a piece of meat, he goes on to insult their intelligence. You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar? ” (Updike 525). Throughout the story Sammy does nothing but judges the girls and elderly customers, then quits his job. Not to mention the owner of A&P is a good friend of his parents. The mindset of the narrator is narrow-minded and selfish. A&P is clearly narrated with an unreliable narrator. Although many stories have the same situation, Sammy’s narration of his own opinions completely directs this story plot.

Cite this page

Example of an “Unreliable” Narrator in story “A&P” Analysis. (2017, Feb 17). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront