“A & P” and “Everyday Use” Analysis and Comparison
In a modern society where good deeds and integrity are taken for granted, it is necessary for people to stand up for what is right. The short story “A & P”, written by John Updike, tells the story of Sammy and how he takes a stand for what he believes is right, only he is not given the gratitude he deserved. “Everyday Use”, written by Alice Walker, is another short story that shows how substantial it is to stand firm for one’s convictions and beliefs, especially in familial matters. Mama, the protagonist in “Everyday Use”, must make the decision of protecting her self-conscious daughter Maggie, or giving in to Dee, her other egocentric daughter who has forgotten the traditional values of their family. These two short stories indicate the importance of protecting people from the harshness of reality because not everyone is secure or aware enough to be able to stand up for themselves.
Although one’s good deeds may often not be acknowledged, the inevitable lesson of maturity can be taught through such experiences. In “A&P”, Sammy is a teenage clerk who is not acknowledged for accomplishing what he thinks is a good deed. During a hot day, three teenage girls walks into the A&P grocery store, wearing only their bathing suits. The image of the girl’s revealing attire provides an absolute contrast to both the simple interior of the store and also of the other conservative customers. Sammy describes the customers as “sheeps” because they look mindless as they follow each other around the aisles in continual, constant motion. However, these three girls conflict with the imagery of “sheeps” by breaking the norms of what the A&P grocery store, and society in general, has proclaimed as acceptable. These three girls symbolize the reverse of what Sammy has been accustomed to seeing in the store, which are the pedestrian and conformed customers. Infrequency rather than frequency triggers the events that occur in the A&P grocery store. The sexually appealing nature of the girls provokes Sammy’s carnal appetite and engenders rebellious feelings towards conformity as well. This allows him to realize that his life has been tailored to that of the mundane lives of the other A&P employees and customers. However, this epiphany leads Sammy to act impulsively when the girls are being admonished for their revealing attire by Lengel. Lengel, the conventional and austere store manager, further embodies the conformity that surrounds Sammy as Lengel reprimands the girls for wearing bathing suits in a grocery store. As Sammy sees his manager embarrassing the girls, Sammy has the choice of being a “sheep” or breaking out of the conformed structure of the A&P store, such as the girls has done. Sammy is refreshed by the uniqueness the girls bring, and he also wants to be part of that. This shows that he wants to protect what the girls and what they represent, which is contrast to conformity. Sammy ultimately decides to defend the girls’ honor by quitting his job, and thus makes the statement of not being a “sheep” that is mindlessly led by society. Although this decision was driven partly by carnal feelings, it was primarily out of impulse and curiosity of what lies beyond the restricted borders of normalcy in the A&P grocery store. Even though Sammy quit his job for the girls, they do not even acknowledge his act of sacrifice. Sammy is still given a chance by Lengel to reconsider his rash decision, but he continues to stands firm for what he believes in, even after the girls have already left the store. Sammy then walks out of the A&P with no job and no display of affection or gratitude from the girls. Sammy has sacrificed his job for people who don’t care, and the harsh reality of sacrificing for people who do not care results in the compromise of self security. A&P is a story about coming to age, and Sammy comes to age as he attempts to seek for something better than what the A&P store can offer...
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