Confrontation of Social Conformism in the Story A&P by John Updike

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

He is a 19-year-old cashier working in a grocery store under the management of his parent’s friend; he appears to be overly observant and quite bored with his surroundings, when in walks 3 young ladies “wearing nothing but bathing suits” (Updike 160). Little does he know, he is about to have to face an obstacle in which he must decide whether or not to stand up against social conformity.

In the short story “A&P” by John Updike, social conformity is a major theme, which is accomplished through the authors use of the setting as the location of the supermarket named A&P, which takes place in the year 1961. Although he initially comes off as opinionated, immature, and judgmental Sammy serves as an example of the younger generation growing up in an era with external conflicts of conservative views, which in turn cause internal conflicts for Sammy.

Sammy is what most would consider to be what is called a dynamic character. A dynamic character is a person who changes over time, usually as a result of a central conflict or when facing a major conflict. In labeling Sammy as this type of dynamic character, it is important to know how he changes over time. In the beginning of this story, Sammy is characterized in a few different ways. His name, itself, hints at his personality. The name, “Sammy,” implies youth, compared to a more mature name such as Samuel.

He is described as a 19 year-old grocery store cashier, living with his parents, which portrays a bit of immaturity. He also describes many of his older customers in a negative aspect, and ferociously judges the 3 young women in bathing suits. Sammy goes as far as detailing a bathing suit strap being off of one the girl’s shoulders, the shapes of their bodies, and then continued to follow their every move until the time they reach the check-out lane. When doing this, he portrays judgmental and overly analytic characteristics. However, he appears to change over time once the girls are at his register.

While checking out the girl’s items, the store manager scrutinizes the girls for how they are dressed, as he says “girls, this isn’t the beach” (Updike 163). Sammy second guesses his manager’s statements and quits his job. In doing so, he is making a statement not only for the girls and himself, but his age generation all together, demanding a type of change; albeit on an individual level. Although he may have had personal reasons for quitting his job, such as impressing the girls, he still displayed courage, which shows how his character changes through-out the story.


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