Examples Of Individualism In A & P By John Updike

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“A&P” by John Updike tells the story of Sammy, a young grocery store clerk in small-town New England. We follow Sammy as he admires and objectifies three girls who come into the store in their bathing suits, causing a stir with both the other customers and staff alike. A major idea conveyed throughout the story is that individualism is more valuable than conforming to societal expectations. Throughout the story, Sammy separates himself from those around him. For example, he refers to the other customers in the store as “sheep” and “house slaves”, finding their shock at the state of the girls “hilarious”. Additionally, Sammy distances himself from his co-workers, Stokesie, who “thinks he’s going to be manager some sunny day”, and Lengel, the …show more content…

Updike also uses symbols to further the idea of individualism. For instance, Sammy applauds the girls in ”nothing but bathing suits”, which represent self-expression and a clear disregard for the small-town social norms. The girls themselves even personify individuality in Sammy’s mind with the way they “[walk] against the usual traffic”, both literally and figuratively. When Sammy quits his job, he sheds his uniform, a symbol of corporate conformity. The apron has “‘Sammy’ stitched in red on the pocket”, but this tiny bit of personalization is nowhere near enough for Sammy, because at the end of the day, it all belongs to the establishment, even “the bow tie is theirs”. The setting also provides an excellent backdrop for Sammy to rage against the system he looks down on. The grocery store, with its “fluorescent lights” and “stacked packages”, represents the monotony of living life within social conventions. Sammy has “nothing much to do except lean on the register and wait for the girls to show up

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