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Trapped by Society in John Updike's A&P Essay

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Trapped by Society in John Updike's A&P

 
    People often take their place in society for granted. They accept that position into which they are born, grow up in it, and pass that position on to their children. This cycle continues until someone is born who has enough vision to step out of his circle and investigate other ways of life in which he might thrive. One such person is embodied in the character of Sammy in A&P, by John Updike. Sammy is the narrator of the story and describes an incident in the store where he encounters a conflict between the members of two completely different worlds the world that he was born into and the world of a girl that captures his mind. Through his thoughts, attitudes, and actions, Sammy shows that he is caught between the two worlds of his customers at the A&P.

      Sammy's thoughts, as told to the reader in his narration, betray a deep understanding of the people he comes in contact with. When the girls walked into the store, he began to describe not only their looks, but also their attitudes and personalities without ever speaking to them. The one who held his attention was also the one he named "Queenie". On page one he says, She was the queen. She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. Sammy understood that she was the one in charge, and by saying that the other two made their shoulders round he showed that he realized their passivity was by choice; they followed her by their own wills.

      Sammy also understood how the "regulars" of the A&P thought and reasoned. He correctly interpreted the customers’ reactions to the girls, saying, "A few houseslaves in pin curlers even looked round after pushing their cart...


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...ed what he did for them and wanting their appreciation for his attempt to disassociate himself from the people in the store. He called them "his" girls, trying to bring himself to their level in the social scheme as he saw it (3).

      Sammy was indeed caught between the two worlds that collided one day in the A&P, and he chose to pursue the one that was not his own. He was able to do this when others were not because he understood both worlds, his attitude toward each were completely different, and his actions were drastic enough to cut him free from the bonds that his world had on him. With two paths to choose from and only one to follow, Sammy took the path less traveled in that small town by the sea. He was, to use his own analogy, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Works Cited

Updike, J. A&P. www.crown.edu/humanities/Wheatonj. 17 January, 2004.


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