Instructors’ Teaching Experience

This story always teaches well because Sammy is so well liked by the students. Sammy is commonly viewed as the disinterested clerk working a dead-end job – a position many students find “relatable.” Sammy’s descriptions of the girls are funny and sweet, his descriptions of his customers are sarcastic, and his motivations are never crystal clear. Sammy’s fateful confrontation with Mr. Lengel is a great source of discussion for the class. [L. Sweeney,]

Classroom Strategies

Liking A Character

In something of a reader-response method, I ask my students if they Updike wants them to like or dislike Sammy. I typically get answers about why they like Sammy, but then I force them to use the text to show me how Updike has made Sammy likable. I’ll often get vague answers like “He’s funny” or “Because he’s sarcastic” and I make them find examples and explain to me why these are funny or sarcastic examples. [L. Sweeney,]


I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of Marxist. I like to make my students find examples of Sammy’s class as compared to the teenage girls he defends. I like to make this a factor because of Sammy’s failed attempt at impressing the girls. [L. Sweeney,]