Dehumanization In John Updike's A & P

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Theme is a universal message that a story displays. The reader can learn from it and apply it to his/her everyday life. It is an essential component in literature. It’s what brings stories to life and provides the reader with a purpose in actually reading the story. In A&P, by John Updike, a major theme is that people blindly follow stringent rules that restrict individuality and lead to dehumanization. These ideas are demonstrated through the girls’ appearance, Lengel’s views of the girls, and Sammy’s rebellious act. The girls’ unconventional dress sets the stage for the development of the theme. When three girls walk into A&P “in nothing but bathing suits,” they’re coming into the store looking completely different and unique from everyone else. Compared to them, the ordinary customers are like “sheep pushing their carts down the aisle.” The everyday consumers’ actions and reactions…show more content…
Even “a few house-slaves in pin curlers looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct.” Everyone in the store notices the distinctiveness of the girls’ dress. While everyone else just saw that the girls were dressed in bikinis, the little abnormalities caught Sammy’s eyes the most. He clearly distinguishes the fact that Queenie’s “straps were down.” Queenie lifting a “folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top” provoked Sammy’s thoughts, too. Sammy is noticing all these aspects of unconventional dress. The style of dress provides the opportunity for Sammy to think about his own values. It makes him think about what’s right and what’s not. He notices that the girls provide a stark contrast to the usual setting and atmosphere in A&P. Sammy thought, “It's one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway, and another thing in the cool of the A & P, under the fluorescent lights, against all those stacked packages, with her feet

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