What is the significance when Sammy said, "You didn't have to embarrass them" to Mr. Lengel.

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When Sammy tells Mr. Lengel that he didn't need to embarrass the girls, he is, for the first time, taking a stand against the authority Mr. Lengel represents.  The story takes place in the 1960's, a time of rebellion and mistrust of those who represent power.  Sammy is fed up with his dead end job and detests the "sheep" he checks out at the A & P.  In an attempt to impress the girls who came into the store scantily clothed,  Sammy stands up to Mr. Lengel's conservative values.  This is the beginning of Sammy's rite of passage where the decisions he makes allow him to pass from being a child to an adult. When he unties his store apron (the one his mother ironed the night before), he is symbolically stepping from childhood to adulthood. The saying, "tied to his mother's apron strings" represents a young man unable to act or think on his own. This "defiant" remarks shows Sammy's attempt to become a free-thinking adult and not one of the "herd" who navigate the grocery store aisles. Unfortunately, Sammy also has a realization about his life and understands how difficult it will be in the future when you make rash decisions.  

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