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What is the central theme of John Updike's short story "A & P"?

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ginamg2011 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 10, 2011 at 8:04 PM via web

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What is the central theme of John Updike's short story "A & P"?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 11, 2011 at 12:09 AM (Answer #1)

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The two primary themes of John Updike's short story "A & P" are those of consequences of choice and individualism. Sammy's teenage lust for the underdressed girls who patronize the A & P store in which he works causes him to make what he considers a chivalric act: He quits his job in protest over his boss' rude behavior toward the girls. Sammy makes his decision on the spur of the moment, not considering that he will no longer have an income; that it will be tough to find another job; and that his parents will be angry for his short-sighted move.

Sammy does show the trait of individualism during the story, objecting to his manager's behavior and choosing to quit rather than being a part of the store's policies. Others do not, however: The manager, Lengel, chooses to tow the company line, intimidating and embarrassing the girls by quoting company policy. The girls fail to defend themselves, quickly leaving the store rather than stand up for their right to dress as they wish.   

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