Sammy is a classic example of an “unreliable” narrator—that is, a narrator who is a full-fledged character in the story and whose opinions must be analyzed 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 voice and not as a statement of Updike’s feelings on the topic.
The effect of Updike’s technique in handling the first-person narration in “A&P” is to ensure that the reader will not mistake Sammy’s voice for Updike’s.
That is, Sammy is not meant to function as a stand-in for Updike or as a spokesman for the “authorial” point of view.
Sammy is clearly intelligent, although still uneducated at nineteen, and capable of creating striking images, such as calling a girl’s hair “oaky” and describing the sunlight as “skating around” the parking lot.
Updike keeps Sammy’s language colloquial, beginning sentences with “You know” and “Really” and including asides and hesitations in an attempt to keep the language natural.
John Updike uses descriptive imagery to help the reader understand what is going on in Sammy's mind.
Detailed phrases such as "sunburns right across under the eyes" and "chin that was too long" demonstrate the detail and attention to which Sammy takes in observing the girls. Licensed under Public domain" data-lightbox="media-gallery-1567809800" A caricature of John Updike from The New York Review of Books by David Levine, who drew Updike several times. Licensed under Non-free, could qualify as fair use" data-lightbox="media-gallery-1567809800"While Sammy is studying the girls he takes pleasure in their "soft looking can" and "long white prima-donna legs".
An understanding of Updike’s subtle handling of his narrator is key to grasping the true action of the plot of “A&P”: the slow revelation of a young man’s character.
The aim of the essay is to adequately analyze the various incidences of the stories and to reveal the critical turning points of the main characters.