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Essay about Human Nature in A&P by John Updikes

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John Updlikes, “A&P” is a fictitious narrative that presents an insightful view on some facets of human nature. Our story takes place at an A&P grocery store in a small Massachusetts town. We are taken into the mind of our 19-year old narrator, Sammy, who quickly leaves behind his innocence as a carefree teenager to become a man, with a realistic understanding of being an adult. Throughout this story, Updlike, creates scenes where peoples idealistic views of themselves and social norms, shake the monotonous routine of the A&P. We are then able to observe the internal and external conflicts that the ideal self can create in the world around us. Updike, uses themes in “A&P” to reveal through a carefully selected cross-section of society, how all people, across lines of gender and social class, face a daily struggle for self-expression while battling the oppression, and repression of their individuality.

One of the most prominent themes in “A&P” is desire, which leads to the struggle to obtain said, desire. Sammy’s, mind weighed heavily with many desires, unaware and unsure of how to acquire them. Sammy, was very bored with his job and saw it more as something

tedious he had to tolerate. He spent his days watching customers come to and from and detailing his thoughts about them. “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle” (Updlike 18). He calls them all sheep because he see’s no real difference between any of them no one stood out as an individual, there was no expression of self to differentiate any of them from the other. Sammy, was so critical and opinionated of these customers; however, he was no different, just a sheep himself going about his normal routine. This theme’s purpose is also to highlight an important time in Sa...


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...h his writing of “A&P”. This story shows that no matter who someone is, where they are from, their gender or their age, the basics do not change. People, are continuously at war with their need to feel something about themselves that sets them apart from others. By nature, people desire self expression, and some form of individualism. However, the desire inevitably will lead us to a cross road and a decision must be made. Humans, regularly have to battle both internal and external controls when it comes to making decisions in order to comply with social norms and avoid upsetting the delicate balance between what is socially acceptable and individualism.



Works Cited

Updlike, John. "A&P." Literature. An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 12th Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 12th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education (US), 2012. 17-21. Print


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