A&P

by: John Updike

Queenie

Queenie is a mixture of precocity and innocence, testing the boundaries of allowable behavior without fully grasping the implications of her actions until she is confronted and embarrassed by Lengel. Queenie is the leader of her group of friends, and she has clearly induced the other two girls into making a spectacle of themselves by walking into the A&P wearing only their bathing suits. While the other girls seem awkward and abashed, Queenie is undaunted by the disapproving glances of the other shoppers and the eager gazes of the male employees. Although she simply goes about the task of finding her herring snacks, her confident stride reveals her awareness of being observed: she seems to be putting on a performance of both independence and sexual power. When Lengel challenges her behavior, however, her self-confidence weakens slightly. Called to task for her skimpy garments, she hovers between her desire to be sexually provocative and her knowledge of the vulnerable position in which she has put herself. No longer a self-assured sexual being, her response—that she is buying something for her mother—reveals that she has not yet quite reached adulthood. The combination of her brazenness and vulnerability ultimately spurs Sammy to shun the rules that bind him.


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