Sammy is young, fresh out of school, and sees his life laid out before him in his coworker Stokesie and the store manager, Lengel. When three girls walk in wearing bathing suits, Sammy reacts first by staring at them with lust, but slowly comes to feel the girls are being unfairly objectified. When Lengel scolds them about what they are wearing, Sammy jumps to the girls' defense. He sees this as an opportunity to get them to notice him but also to make a statement about personal freedom.
Lengel teaches Sunday school in addition to his job as manager at the A&P. Both of these roles put him in charge of people's conduct. He has to make sure his employees take care of the customers and treat them politely, but he also feels he must ensure that customers follow the unspoken rules of propriety. As a friend of Sammy's parents, Lengel feels a particular responsibility to look after Sammy, but does not succeed in changing Sammy's mind about quitting his job.
Since she's on an errand for her mother, Queenie enters the A&P with a clear goal in mind. She doesn't think about how she's dressed; she just thinks about buying herring snacks as her mother has requested. Sammy speculates on the basis of the way she carries herself and what she's purchasing that she is from a higher-class home. When Lengel takes her to task for dressing inappropriately, Queenie blushes—but still defends herself and her friends. After buying the snacks, she's quick to leave and escape the judgmental stares of the people in the store.