In "A & P" why does Sammy call the people in the store sheep?

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fact that Sammy calls the people in the market “sheep” is an indication that he is getting fed up with his job. He is obviously more intelligent than the average grocery clerk and is probably only working to pay his way through college. John Updike chose a setting for the story which practically everyone is familiar with. All supermarkets look pretty much alike, and all the customers look and behave pretty much the same. It is easy for the reader to visual the scene. Supermarket customers tend to move along in slow motion, following each other like sheep, sometimes bunching up like a flock of sheep where something obstructs an aisle, and then lining up passively and patiently like sheep to get to the checkout counter. These people have all been conditioned by the modern world to think and act alike. They lead humdrum lives and rarely experience any strong emotions. Sammy quits his job abruptly because he has a sudden impulse to escape, to live adventurously and not get trapped in the same world as the sheep-like people he has to deal with, including the store manager himself. It is the intrusion of the three girls in bathing suits that causes Sammy to want to break out of the routine that seems to be suffocating him; but he realizes as soon as he takes off his apron and walks outside that the world has nothing to offer him except a routine, regimented existence—especially if he has no education and is nothing but a semi-skilled wage-earner. The A&P store is one tiny unit of an enormous conglomerate like all the other organizations that are shaping Americans’ lives.