54 pages 1 hour read

John Updike


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1961

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.


Conformity and Individualism

Sammy is well-accustomed to his job at the A&P; he knows which customers to be extra careful around, knows that he is allowed to engage in playful conversation with his coworker Stokesie, and knows, generally, the rules of the store. Although he is comfortable in this setting, Sammy’s relationship to his job is not an altogether satisfactory one. On various levels, Sammy feels trapped in his position and stifled by what is expected of him. When Queenie and her friends enter the story, he is suddenly made painfully aware of the confining nature of not just his job but also his class. In order to please everyone, he must remain obedient to his assigned roles; he should not overstep, or question Lengel, or stick up for the girls. In other words, he should not express himself as an individual and should remain consistent in conforming to the crowd. The tension between conforming and expressing one’s individuality is represented in “A&P” as Sammy grows increasingly doubtful of his hitherto accepted role.

The more time he spends watching Queenie, the more Sammy’s urge to rebel grows. Early in the story, Sammy is careful to defuse the situation with the customer whom he describes as “a witch about fifty with rogue on her cheekbones and no eyebrows,” before stating that he “got her feathers smoothed and her goodies into a bag” (Paragraph 2).