“A&P” by John Updike: A Glimpse into the Tensions of Youth and Society

Table of Content

“A&P” by John Updike is more than just a description of a young man’s hasty judgment at the supermarket. It reveals the complex network of society conventions, individual disobedience, and the passage from youth to adulthood behind the surface. The narrative offers a prism through which readers may examine the more significant concerns of conformity, adolescent disobedience, and the effects of going against the grain. It is set against the background of a small town’s supermarket.

Setting and atmosphere

The A&P supermarket serves as both a backdrop for the action of the novel and a representation of the routine and regimented social order. The set rules of the outside world are reflected in the aisles, the frequent customers, and the distinct jobs inside the business. Sammy, our main character, moves around this environment while noticing its subtleties until a cause for change appears.

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Queenie and Her Friends from The Catalyst

The arrival of Queenie and her pals in beach suits stands in sharp contrast to the A&P’s uninteresting surroundings. They stand in for Sammy’s fascination with and desire for the non-conformity of the outside world. Their casual disregard for the unwritten dress code at the business serves as a prelude to Sammy’s more overt act of disobedience.

Sammy’s Character Development

Sammy starts off with the viewpoint of a regular adolescent, full of banal observations, flavored with a dash of cynicism and comedy. But as the narrative goes on, he starts to reflect more. His decision to resign from his position in order to stand up for Queenie and her companions is a protest against social convention as well as an effort to escape the monotony of his existence.

The Price of Rebellion

Sammy’s audacious choice to resign is neither praised or admired. Instead, he encounters the girls’ lack of interest and his manager’s sharp rebuke. This emphasizes a crucial element of the narrative: the negative effects of disobeying social standards in real life. Sammy’s conduct highlights the sometimes solitary nature of resistance while simultaneously being freeing and alienating.

Deeper Meanings and Symbolism

The narrative has a number of meanings. The herring nibbles Queenie purchases might be seen as a symbol of wealth and a realm out of Sammy’s grasp. The frequent A&P clients Sammy refers to as “sheep” stand in for the wider majority of society as they blindly follow predetermined patterns and habits.


Despite being a brief story, John Updike’s “A&P” captures the significant problems associated with growing up and questioning the existing quo. Sammy’s transformation from a bystander to a young man prepared to speak up mirrors the larger conflicts between personal ambitions and society norms. The tale emphasizes the bittersweet nature of individual development and freedom while serving as a painful reminder of the risks and benefits of nonconformity. We are left as readers to reflect on our own choices, the standards we uphold in society, and the price we are prepared to pay to be free.


  1. “A&P” by John Updike, 1961.
  2. D. Greiner (1984). Novels by John Updike.
  3. J. Schiff (1998). “Updike’s A & P” The Explainer.
  4. J. Plath (1981). John Updike’s At War with My Skin and Other Essays.

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“A&P” by John Updike: A Glimpse into the Tensions of Youth and Society. (2023, Aug 09). Retrieved from


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