Elizabeth HerberMrs. Cooper A. P. Literature 07 September 2005 An Unconventional Identity Symbolism is a relatively straight forward concept on its surface. It is a visible object or action that suggests some further meaning in addition to itself.
Most literary works use symbols to expand on the meaning of the piece of work. ‘A&P’ by John Updike, is a rich story presenting the main idea of man’s struggle to attain individuality within society. Through his work, Updike uses the three girl’s sense of non-conformity as symbolism to enhance Updike’s theme of finding individuality and to identify the change in Sammy. “A&P” starts off with three girls walking into a grocery store “in nothing but [their] bathing suits” (14).
The A&P is “five miles from a beach” (16), in the middle of town.
They are having fun and enjoying themselves although the way they are dressed is not appropriate for where they are, but it does not bother them at all. Soon after their entrance, they catch the eye of Sammy. Sammy follows the girls around the store with his eyes, describing them very thoroughly, even describing one of the girl’s “sweet broad soft-looking can, with those two crescents of white just under it” (14).
Sammy’s sharp and critical observations about the people around him confirms that he is discontent with the norms of society. When Lengel, the store manager, catches the three girls in his store breaking the dress policy, he confronts and informs them that ‘[t]his isn’t the beach’ (17).
... the girls for coming in the store in inappropriate attire. In a pointless heroic move to try and win over the girls; Sammy quits ... P,' by John Updike, tells the tale of Sammy, a nineteen year old boy who works in a small grocery store on the East-Coast, ... gutter. In the first paragraph Sam's thoughts of the first girl he sees, or as he calls her, "Plaid' are nothing ...
He then Herbert 2 subtly insults them by saying, ‘[w]e want you decently dressed…
Although the girls say that they “are decent” (17), the reader recognizes the fact that the girls are breaking rules by their embarrassment and hurrying out of the store. Yet, even though their rebellion is not intended, because all they initially have to do is “pick up a jar of herring snacks” (17), their nonconformity makes a significant difference in Sammy’s perception of them. In his eyes, the mere fact that they are different from the others, makes them more appealing. After being introduced to the beauty of nonconformity, Sammy is inspired to be the “unsuspected hero” (18) and quit his job. Sammy, on the edge of reaching his own identity, is presented with a perfect example of what he longs to be – different.
He resolves his conflict by quitting his job at the grocery store, which makes a change for no one except himself. He stands up against the structure of society for what he believes in, courageously telling Lengel ‘I quit’ (18).
The representation of being inimitable by the unconventional behavior of the three girls in bathing suits is the impetus behind Updike’s theme of self-identity. Work Cited Updike, John.
“A&P.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 2002.