Roel Luna Jr.
June 9, 2013
The External/Internal Conflict in "A&P" by John Updike
After reading John Updike’s short story “A&P”, it is clear that conflict is present from beginning to end. The general conflict carried throughout the story is centered on conformity. A few examples of conflict presented in this story include Sammy versus his opposition of the store’s structure and community’s mindset, Lengel verses the girls and Sammy versus himself. As the story opens, we are introduced to an opinionated, observant, sarcastic and hormone-driven 19-year old boy who works as a cashier in a grocery store of a small town. As he describes the store and his surroundings, the reader begins to sense Sammy’s discontentment with his mundane life when he shares his thoughts and perceptions. For example, he refers to customers as “sheep” and “house slaves”. The external conflict between Sammy and his small town’s views develops as he watches the girls maneuver their way around the store. These girls were a breath of fresh air. They were new, different and seemed to stir up some outrage and criticism. For instance, Updike writes, “A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct” (119). He even began to feel sorry for the girls as he saw “old McMahon patting his mouth and looking after them sizing up their joints” (Updike 120). This demonstrates how Sammy began to realize how closed-minded and ordinary the town he lived in was. Another external conflict arises when Lengel, the store manager and Sunday school teacher confronts the girls about the store’s policy. In particular, Updike states, “‘we want you decently dressed when you come in here’ ” (121). Sammy resented the fact that Lengel and all the “sheep” judged the girls simply by their clothing or lack thereof. His act of quitting was to show them that they all overreacted to the situation with the girls....
Cited: Updike, John. “A&P.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry,
and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 9th ed. New York: Longman, 2005. 117-122
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