John Updike's A & P

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The Theme of “A & P” The short story “A & P” by John Updike,” is set during the late 1950’s when the country is at a turning point with the way people start to view social norms. The nation is in the post-World War II era and is about to experience a time of major social changes. During this time, a shift in society occurred which ultimately shaped people’s worldviews. Up until then the view that rules must be followed and to not stand out from the crowd, but that way of thinking was changing with the younger people. The theme is supported with the character’s choices, the conflict of choices, and depicted through scenes. The theme of having to choose between being part of the majority and . Through the choice of characters, the protagonist…show more content…
A&P’s manager Lengel, and Stokesie a co-worker and friend along with the customers represent the norm. They obey the obvious rules and policies and follow a seemingly set way of life. Their overall behavior is also guided by societies implied expectations which further depicts people’s roles in society. By referring to the customers as “sheep,” the author generates a powerful connotation of group behavior that rarely strays from the boundaries of the group and the safety that comes with it. The character of Queenie on the other hand, along with her friends, serves as the opposing viewpoint in an otherwise mainstream setting. Updike writes that apart from physically breaking norms by entering a convenience store in misappropriate clothing, “the girls were walking against the usual traffic,” which implies he direction that these characters take on in the story (371). They represent the emerging focus on individuality rather than the conformist society. Caught in the middle is the protagonist of Updike’s story Sammy. He exemplifies the struggle within society which is still holding on to traditional ways, but is also intrigued with the notion of individual freedom that comes with breaking from these

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