Conformity And Rebellion In A&P By John Updike

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Imagine a soft pink blending with a vibrant purple and all of a sudden, a bright spot of blue arises. This is something similar that readers can relate to in the short story, “A&P” by John Updike. As usual the conformist would blend in with rest of the people where rebellious people would stand out in that blend. This concept of conformity and rebellion is shown in Updike’s short story, “A&P” through use of literary devices. Literary devices are used to emphasize a particular theme. In this story, the author uses symbolism and metaphor to communicate the theme of conformity and rebellion. Updike paints a powerful image of rebellions and conformists in his short story, “A&P”. First, he makes use of bathing suits as a symbol of freedom and rebellion making his views clear on …. Second, he uses the metaphor of the sheep to portray the conformist aspect of the story through the customers in the store. He also uses symbolism of fluorescent light and sunlight to describe the transformation of Sammy from conformist to being rebellious. In “A&P” a simple piece of clothing came across as symbol of rebellion. The story starts by; “In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits” (Updike).

The quote explains itself, three bold girls walked in a grocery store without worrying about their appearance. A bathing suit which represents a girl’s choice of freedom for clothing gradually turned into reason for protest. Through this minimal attire on, the girls are trying to show that they are not following the social norms and standards of the society. Walking in a bathing suit at a beach is completely fine, but when someone walks in such clothing at a grocery store it comes across as sign of rebelliousness. Not only that but they were walking in confidently without any shame which adds even more to their wrongdoings. Also, when Queenie was confronted by the store manager, Lengel, she again showed her rebellious side in the form of her answering back to him despite of being at fault. But few seconds later she herself was embarrassed and realized her setting. In the story it is mentioned, “‘We are decent,’ Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place” This is generally a sign of rebellious people who act up in the heat of the moment but later realize their mistake.

Animals have often hold deeper meaning in many stories. In “A&P” “sheeps” represent the normal customers and their actions. By referring to the other shoppers as sheep, the author is highlighting the idea of conformity. Updike portrays a society where everyone follows a common path with pure integrity, unlike few people (the girls) who just want to do opposite things. There is a huge difference between the customers and three girls in “A&P”. Unlike the girls, everyone else in the store abides by the social norms. In the story, it states, “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle — the girls were walking against the usual traffic. ” This shows that while everyone else was acting in a similar manner (conforming), the girls were trying to portray their rebellious side here too by going in the opposite direction. The girls’ attire of a bathing suit caught everyone’s attention as soon as they entered. Something as simple as clothing made the girls different and rebellious from the rest of the crowd. Updike also mentions, “and the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street. ” This shows, that other people abide by the basic norms of a proper dressing style unlike the girls who are openly going against it in a grocery store setting. The overall message that Updike is sending out is that people can represent themselves in any way they want and the social standards of the society shouldn’t refrain them.


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