Conformity, Authority, And Freedom In John Updike's A & P

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From the provocative hip-thrusts of Elvis Presley to the rise of the eclectic, anti-establishment hippie movement, the 1960’s invoked a spark of rebellion within the United States. As the era of conservative dress, social values, and morals dwindled into the past, the rebellious youths confronted figures like parents, teachers, and adults to terminate their authoritative grasp. In John Updike’s short story “A & P,” he displays the magnitude of tension between the two oppositions, contained within the isles of a local store. Exaggerated by the time period in which the story was written, Updike’s symbolism throughout “A & P” develops ever-present themes of conformity, authority, and freedom. Through Updike’s creative use of animalistic symbolism,…show more content…
As the 1950’s and 1960’s were notorious for teens rising up against “the man,” Lengel becomes the overpowering authority, controlling all actions within his store. While Updike develops the shoppers as “sheep,” Lengel, as store manager, acts as the shepherd, no “sheep” dare to act against him. Lengel embodies everything one would expect from a leading adult in the 1960’s, and Updike uses that to express the disdain between Lengel and the girls, the overall conflict between adults and teenagers of the time. Updike describes Lengel as the “head lifeguard” at the A & P, and he makes a point to include that Lengel “teaches Sunday school and the rest,” satirically implying that Lengel possesses the highest moral character. With all of the background and power Updike gives Lengel, he develops beyond the store manager, becoming the voice of authority. To emphasize just how much power Lengel possess, Updike states that “Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.” Anything that goes against Lengel’s rules is an act of pure delinquency, completely symbolic of the authoritative demands forced upon teenagers of the
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