Comparison of The A&P with Society
John Updike has succeeded in writing a very simple short story portraying society with conformists, the A&P, and idealists, such as Sammy. The story is merely five pages long, but is filled with symbolism that can be analyzed and written in the length of a novel. Society usually contains a government along with two types of people: conformists and idealists. The A&P in this case is representing society whereas every aspect of the supermarket directly relates to reality. The conformists are represented by the store manager, employees of the A&P, and the customers, whereas the idealist is represented through Sammy, a teen-aged cashier who becomes fed up with the rules and policies of the A&P.
The A&P is a supermarket not like the ordinary local grocery store. Everything in the A&P is in order, along with neatness, almost to perfection. Even though everything seems to be perfect, there will always be something in the store that is out of place, such as cans that fell over, or a certain product that is on the wrong shelf. This resembles how in every society, there are always a few people the government will consider bad seeds. People who will not abide the laws or will have rude manners or maybe even people who do not feel the need to quit smoking.
The government in this case is the manager of the store. In general, when an A&P manager finds something out of place, he will immediately order an employee to correct the situation. Since the manager is considered the ?government?, it is safe to say that the employees must symbolize authority within the society. After all, it is these people that are responsible for keeping order in the supermarket.
Sammy is the main character in the story. He notices three girls walking in swimsuits and decides to quit his job when the manager confronts the ladies and tells them they are not appropriately dressed to be shopping in the store. Sammy states to himself sarcastically, ? Policy is what the kingpins want. What the others want is juvenile delinquency.?(Updike 15) There are two reasons for Sammy quitting his job. First is because he does not want to conform to the policies, or rules of that society. Second is because he was attracted to the girls and was trying to impress them.
The girls are very symbolic in this story in the sense that they represent temptation and evils in society. They appear in the A&P in swimsuits and have bare feet. Sammy describes the girls and states that the third one, whom he called Queenie, was the one who led the other girls, showing a sense of leadership. Queenie pulled her money out from her cleavage when she had to pay for the item. The key point of these three girls, especially Queenie, is asking will the idealist go with his inhibitions or will he become conformed along with the rest of society.
In this case, Sammy went with his inhibitions. ??so I say, ?I quit? to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they?ll stop and watch me, their unsuspected hero. They keep right on going, into the electric eye; the door flies open and they flicker across the lot to their car,?? (Updike 16) Therefore, Sammy quit, half because of temptation and did not even get a second glance. This raises another question.
Should we learn to accept society and conform to its ways, or shall we be idealists and have our own opinions and minds? Society will always need order, and to conduct order, there will always be a need for authority. In other words, we can either go along with the rules or we can contest them and possibly suffer the punishment. Youths continuously fight the rules, generation after generation. As youths mature, they learn to accept society and its rules. Does this mean that society as a whole suffers because of those few bad seeds that cannot learn to combine idealism and conformation? This is a problem that will never be solved but constant thought and input will help us cope with the harsh realities of life and authority.