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Human Nature In A&P By John Updikes

1538 words - 6 pages

John Updlikes, “A&P” is a fictitious narrative that presents an insightful view on some facets of human nature. Our story takes place at an A&P grocery store in a small Massachusetts town. We are taken into the mind of our 19-year old narrator, Sammy, who quickly leaves behind his innocence as a carefree teenager to become a man, with a realistic understanding of being an adult. Throughout this story, Updlike, creates scenes where peoples idealistic views of themselves and social norms, shake the monotonous routine of the A&P. We are then able to observe the internal and external conflicts that the ideal self can create in the world around us. Updike, uses themes in “A&P” to reveal through a carefully selected cross-section of society, how all people, across lines of gender and social class, face a daily struggle for self-expression while battling the oppression, and repression of their individuality.

One of the most prominent themes in “A&P” is desire, which leads to the struggle to obtain said, desire. Sammy’s, mind weighed heavily with many desires, unaware and unsure of how to acquire them. Sammy, was very bored with his job and saw it more as something

tedious he had to tolerate. He spent his days watching customers come to and from and detailing his thoughts about them. “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle” (Updlike 18). He calls them all sheep because he see’s no real difference between any of them no one stood out as an individual, there was no expression of self to differentiate any of them from the other. Sammy, was so critical and opinionated of these customers; however, he was no different, just a sheep himself going about his normal routine. This theme’s purpose is also to highlight an important time in Sammy’s life. At 19 years of age, Sammy is soon to leave his childhood behind and become an adult this particular day played a major role in his coming of age. Sammy, is really at odds with the boring lifestyles of the adults he sees around him within the A&P. “Stokesie's married, with two babies chalked up on his fuselage already, but as far as I can tell that's the only difference. He's twenty-two, and I was nineteen this April” (Updlike 19). Here Sammy is comparing himself to the other youngest person in the A&P that he can somewhat relate to, as Stokesis is just as interested in the lore of the three girls” […] the responsible married man finding his voice. I forgot to say he thinks he's going to be manager some sunny day […]” (Updlike 19). Sammy displays a true dislike for the path that Stokesis life had taken, quickly married, multiple children right after marriage, and a job at the A&P, waiting to one day make manager. This further highlights the time limitation left on Sammy to decide what path he will take as an adult, and what kind of man he will be. Will he give in and take the path that everyone else before him seems to have accepted, or will he break free and create something more ideal, where he feels like a...

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