Conformity vs. Individualism
The short story by John Updike, A & P, is about a young man named Sammy. Throughout the story, Sammy is trying to determine where he belongs in society by using his family and the individuals shopping at his work to figure out what he wants out of life and what he doesn’t want out of life. Sammy works as a cashier at a small town grocery store called A & P somewhere in New England. From the start of the story he comes off as a sarcastic teenager who observes and analyzes everything and everybody. The whole story starts when three girls walk into the grocery store in nothing but their bathing suits. Right away, Sammy is obsessed with these girls, going into detail with what they are wearing, how they are walking, and even by the way they wear their hair. It seems purely sexual at first. For example, he goes into extreme detail about the chunky ones ‘cans’ and Queenie’s breast. He describes all three of them but really focuses on their leader, Queenie. He illustrates her as a very attractive and confident girl who has no problem walking against the crowd and convincing her friends that it is completely acceptable to go into a small town grocery store in their bathing suits. As the story progresses you get this sense that he envies her and the confidence she has to go against the social norms that the society has put there. His jealously becomes even clearer when his manager, Lengel, approaches the girls regarding their attire. He says that they want decently dressed people shopping at the store. Queenie tries to save face by saying her mother sent her to pick up a jar of herring snacks, and right away, Sammy loses himself to a fantasy of what Queenie’s parents are like. He fantasizes about the parties they must throw and compares them to the parties his parent’s throw. Queenies “father and the other men were standing around in ice-cream coats and bow ties and the women were in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off...
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