What is the central theme of the short story, "A&P"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several important themes that John Updike explores in his short story, "A&P." One is that of actions and consequences, which affects several of the characters. Sammy's decision to quit his job, knowing that it will be tough for him to find another, is the primary example. But the girls also learn that by coming into the grocery store barefoot and in their bathing suits, they may be scrutinized by others who deem their attire inappropriate. The manager's decision to publicly humiliate the girls also may have repercussions among his regular customers who watch the scene. Another theme is that of individualism. Sammy's seemingly chivalric decision to quit his job--supposedly out of disgust for the manager's behavior, but more in the hope that he will impress the girls--shows a streak of individuality missing in the others present. Although the girls don't even seem to notice, Sammy does take a stand concerning rules of conduct that conflict with Lengel's store rules and societal norms.