Conformity Vs. Individualism In John Updike's A & P

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Darlene Sims Jason Griggs ENG 1102 [ 29 October 2012 ] Conformity versus Individualism In life, there are multiple paths that can be taken. No matter what direction, a decision must always be made: Whether to conform and lead a life that others deem appropriate, or to break the mold and strike a new path. This conflict is shown in John Updike’s short story “A&P”. Through the eyes of an observant teenager named Sammy, the audience is shown that the road being traveled can sometimes be a dead end and that through a personal revelation a different and more exciting life can be discovered. This story explores the time tested question conformity versus individualism. It is shown that though life is filled with choices and consequences,…show more content…
He seems to be surrounded by these characters bound to their boring lives. Sammy uses different names to describe the people he sees in his conformist town. He calls the customers in the store “sheep”, (Updike, 20) because of how blindly they follow their usual routine and “houseslaves”, (Updike, 20) are what he calls the house wives with pin curlers puttering around the store. He goes on to say that the customers are so enveloped in their grey lives that if someone were to set off a bomb in the center of the store that they would fail to even notice. One customer, “the witch”, (Updike, 18) as Sammy calls her, is described as a serious looking woman one who diligently watches the register he is on, eagerly waiting for him to slip up and make an error. Not only does Sammy see the customers as leading a dead end life, he also sees this in his co-workers. His fellow clerk “Stokesie”, (Updike, 20) a twenty two year old, married father of two who’s biggest dream is to one day become the manager of the A&P grocery store. Sammy sees this as an unfulfilling dream and predicts that it will never come true. Finally Sammy defines his manager Mr. Lengel as a dreary old Sunday school teacher who seems so unsatisfied with his own life, that he makes a point to tend to everyone else’s business. Sammy views the inhabitants of this town as boring lifeless people unknowingly trapped in their own personal prisons. The conformity in…show more content…
This decision may have come with many consequences but it was the path that Sammy chose for himself. So in conclusion, life provides many different paths, and with every direction there are different triumphs and failures. Even though the path of least resistance might reduce some obstacles the road less taken will be more rewarding. John Updike’s short story “A&P” spotlights an issue that every human must face: sometimes the difference between conformity and individualism can be the difference between simply existing and truly living. Works Cited Updike, John. “A&P” The story takes place in a small town in Massachusetts. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2012. 18-23.

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