Three barefoot and bathing suit-clad girls visit the A&P grocery store. Their clothing gathers notice. Sammy, a 19-year-old cashier in the shop, is attracted to the girls’ attention and explains their every breath. When the manager of the shop notices how the girls are dressing, he approaches them and advises them that they should dress properly when entering the store and follow the store’s policy of covering their shoulders. When the girls leave the shop, Sammy advises his boss that he wishes to resign. In doing this, Sammy aims at impressing the girls, and the story ends with Sammy standing alone in the parking lot, and the girls were gone.
Evidently, the A&P short story concerns the struggles of Sammy with social conformity, authority, and freedom. Sammy makes a momentum decision to quit his job in the A&P grocery store to appear as a hero and impress the girls. The three girls that enter the store draw the attention of the customers, Sammy and Lengel because the girls are dressed in a way that the society does not accept. Sammy is fascinated by three girls who seem to be unique, unlike the other customers who he describes as “sheep” because they do things together in the same manner. The girls take Sammy’s attention, and he describes their walking and gestures while in the store until they checkout. The confrontation that arises between the manager of the store and the girls make Sammy quit his job. The underlining idea in A&P story centers on individualism, consequences of choice and conformity in a conservative society
Analysis of the Setting
The setting of the store is in A&P grocery store positioned five miles from a beach and in North Boston. The social setting of the story depicts how the social conformity differs in various groups of individuals and generations. From the setting of the story, Sammy encounters people from different walks of life. Notably, the three girls are seen to go against the conservative social values. The story’s setting makes a contribution to the nature of conservative portrayed in the people. The behavior which goes against the social values is questionable. This is evident when Lengel asks the girls to dress in a decent way. The events of the story occur at the height of cold war which was depicted by extreme tensions. The story was published in 1961, the time when the tensions had escalated between the US, the Soviet Union, and the other allies. The period ushered in youth rebellion against the authority and the socially conservative values. The setting also depicts different social class and generational gap and consumerization. A&P is set in a grocery store which sells goods to various classes. The middle class is signified by Queen together with her friends whilst Sammy symbolizes the lower classes. The girls stand for the young generation while Lengel represents the old generation which is conservative.
Conflict in the A&P story is depicted form the beginning to the end and the typical conflict centers around the idea of societal conformity. Sammy is faced with the conflict of impressing the girls and thus decides to quit his job. The girls are also in conflict with the manager of the store who confronts them to dress properly. Lengel tell the girls that “we want you to decently dress when you come in here” (Updike 21). Additionally, there is a conflict of Sammy against the old mindset of the society and the need to fit in the young generation.
Updike John. A&P. The New Yorker. 1961
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