A & P By John Updike

Decent Essays
Wearing only bathing suits, three girls walk into a store, causing chaos and forever altering one

young man’s life. While the customers of the store scorn the girls’ immodesty, a cashier, Sammy,

becomes greatly affected by them, intensifying his longing for change. He admires the girls for their

open rebellion against the society. The store manager confronts these girls, telling them to have covered

shoulders upon their next entrance at the store. As Sammy observes the scene, he quits his job as a sign

of being a part of “the rebellion” and in hopes of being a hero in the girls’ eyes. Reality sinks into

Sammy when he misses the girls’ exit and regret fills him. What he thinks is noble and just becomes a

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The society at that time sought consumerism, for it was important to them. As Sammy

notices a person purchasing four cans of pineapple juice, he asks himself, “(what do these bums do

with all that pineapple juice? I’ve often asked myself)” (Updike 361). Sammy does not see the

importance of consumerism and values what the traditional society dislikes. In displaying his longing

for change, Sammy even goes as far as to make fun of the society when he jokes to himself, “I bet you

could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking

oatmeal off their lists...” (Updike 360). Consumerism was a hungry, jealous love that controlled the

traditional people of that time. The store symbolized consumerism, which was a jewel in society’s mind

of this time.

The reference to sheep is a symbol of conformity, yet another picture of the desire for change. While

Sammy observes the people in the store, he thinks to himself, “The sheep pushing their carts down the

aisle- the girls were walking against the usual traffic...” (Updike 360). As the story progresses, Sammy

keeps on referring to the shoppers as “sheep”. The “sheep” are the conformed people who do not like

change. In Sammy’s mind, these conformed people follow the traditional crowd, living the same way

they have always lived. The society had been living with these chains of conformity for so long that

change was foreign to its ears. Sheep like
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