Uploaded by Ayaan Farooq

A&P symbols essay (1)

Professor Giddings
English 1123-999
29 February 2010
Sammy’s Apron: A Symbol of the Future
At the end of Updike’s “A&P,” after Sammy quits his job, he says, “. . . I felt how
hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (232). A close reading of the text reveals
that one symbol in particular, Sammy’s apron, seems to suggest a number of ideas that
further reinforce Sammy’s aforementioned difficult plight. The apron and Sammy’s
gesture with it symbolize Sammy’s change in societal roles, his loss of identity, and his
exposure to the “cruel” world.
In the simplest terms, when Sammy takes off his apron, this gesture symbolizes a
change in his societal role. When Sammy works as an A&P employee, his apron is a part
of his uniform that symbolizes his connection to that business and his fellow employees.
However, after Sammy quits, he no longer has the security of that particular role. While
Sammy may not like his job, when he “put [the apron] on the counter, and drop[s] the
bow tie on it,” (457) this gesture symbolizes a dramatic transformation. The discarding
of the apron and the connections suggested by it reinforces his changing role, from the
employed to the unemployed and likely from a person secure in his self to a person who
is now likely not nearly as secure.
Much of Sammy’s increased insecurity results from his loss of identity, a notion
suggested by the apron’s “’Sammy’ stitched in red on the pocket” (231). With the apron
on, Sammy is “somebody.” He is an employee at the A&P—a role that Sammy seems
quite comfortable in and one that seems to give Sammy a clear sense of self and identity.
Certainly Sammy feels important at the store, so important in fact that he’s shocked at the
story’s end when Lengel replaces him and the store continues to function. But when
Sammy quits and takes off the apron with his name on it, his world changes, and certainly
Sammy’s identity changes. The forfeiting of the apron symbolizes that Sammy no longer
has the security of knowing his place in the store; consequently his self-worth changes, as
well as his sense of identity and self.
The stitched apron that Sammy wears is not only a symbol for his sense of self;
the apron also implies that, while employed, Sammy wears protective clothing. As long
as he wears that apron, it protects Sammy in his role. He is secure in his identity, and he
is not psychologically and economically awash in the world. However, when Sammy
discards the apron, he essentially loses his protection, loses his ability to deflect the harsh
realities of the world. He may even lose the support of his parents. So when Sammy
quits and steps outside, he leaves the safety and security of his job and his identity
behind. He then confronts the future, a future that Sammy admits is harsh, and one that
Sammy faces without the symbolic protection of an apron.
Up until the conclusion of the story, “A&P” seems a rather entertaining, lighthearted story. However, the ending and Sammy’s plight is far from amusing. Sammy
has stepped out on a limb, and his life will never be the same because of it. His
transformation is dramatic, and not surprisingly, a key symbol, in this case Sammy’s
apron, clearly seems to reinforce this evolution of character.