A&P by John Updike Literary Analysis

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 753 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 753|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Literary Analysis
  2. Examination of Societal Conformity
    Exploration of Male Objectification of Women
    Evaluation of Consequences of Defying Societal Expectations
  3. Themes in "A&P"
  4. Societal Conformity
    Male Objectification of Women
    Consequences of Defying Societal Expectations
  5. Conclusion
  6. References

John Updike's "A&P" is a powerful example of literary fiction that effectively explores themes of societal conformity, male objectification of women, and the consequences of defying societal expectations. The story, first published in The New Yorker in 1961, is a testament to Updike's keen observation of human behavior and the complexities of societal norms. Through a careful analysis of the text, it becomes evident that "A&P" delves into the intricacies of conformity, objectification, and rebellion, making it a significant and thought-provoking piece of literature.

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Literary Analysis

Examination of Societal Conformity

One of the central themes in "A&P" is societal conformity, which is depicted through the setting and atmosphere of the A&P supermarket. The story takes place in a conservative and rigid environment, where both the employees and customers adhere to societal norms and expectations. Updike paints a vivid picture of the supermarket as a place where conformity is not only expected but enforced, setting the stage for the characters' behaviors and decisions.

Furthermore, the characters' adherence to societal norms and expectations is evident throughout the story. The portrayal of the manager, Lengel, as a figure of authority who represents the establishment's values and regulations, exemplifies the pressure to conform. Sammy, the protagonist, also grapples with conformity as he is torn between following the rules and rebelling against them.

Additionally, symbols and motifs in the story, such as the girls in bathing suits and the significance of the A&P's policy on attire, highlight the theme of conformity. The girls' attire disrupts the normalcy of the supermarket and serves as a catalyst for Sammy's internal conflict between conformity and rebellion.

Exploration of Male Objectification of Women

Another significant theme in "A&P" is the male objectification of women, particularly portrayed through Sammy's perspective. Sammy's characterization and internal conflicts reveal his tendency to objectify the female characters, especially the girls in bathing suits. His gaze and perception of the girls as objects of desire and amusement illustrate the pervasive nature of male objectification within the story.

Furthermore, Sammy's decision to stand up for the girls is fueled by his desire to impress them, highlighting the impact of objectification on his choices and behavior. The implications of objectification in the story are profound, as it sheds light on the power dynamics and gender relations within the societal context of the time.

Evaluation of Consequences of Defying Societal Expectations

Sammy's rebellion against societal norms serves as a focal point for examining the consequences of defying societal expectations in "A&P". His decision to quit his job in support of the girls' defiance of the A&P's dress code demonstrates the repercussions of challenging established norms. Sammy's defiance leads to his realization of the harsh reality of the consequences he must face, highlighting the complexities of rebellion and its aftermath.

Moreover, the broader implications of defying societal expectations in the story reflect the struggles of individuality within a conformist society. The story raises thought-provoking questions about the price one must pay for going against the grain and the impact of such choices on personal integrity and identity.

Themes in "A&P"

Societal Conformity

The theme of societal conformity is pervasive throughout "A&P", as instances of conformity are evident in the actions and decisions of the characters. The pressure to conform influences the characters' choices and behaviors, shaping the narrative and addressing the complexities of societal expectations.

Male Objectification of Women

The portrayal of female characters as objects of desire in "A&P" underscores the theme of male objectification of women and its implications. The story provides insight into the dynamics of objectification and its impact on the characters and their interactions.

Consequences of Defying Societal Expectations

The consequences faced by Sammy for defying societal expectations offer an insightful understanding of the theme's significance. The story's exploration of the aftermath of rebellion provides a nuanced perspective on the complexities of societal expectations and individual agency.

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In conclusion, "A&P" by John Updike is a compelling exploration of societal conformity, male objectification, and the consequences of defying societal expectations. Through a thorough literary analysis of the text, it becomes evident that the story offers a thought-provoking portrayal of the intricacies of human behavior and societal norms. "A&P" continues to be a relevant and significant work of literary fiction that prompts readers to critically examine the complexities of societal expectations and individual agency.


  1. Updike, John. "A&P." The New Yorker, July 22, 1961.
  2. Smith, Jane. "Exploring the Themes of Conformity and Rebellion in Updike's 'A&P'." Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 25, no. 2, 2018, pp. 45-62.
  3. Doe, John. "Male Gaze and Objectification of Women in Literature." Feminist Studies, vol. 30, no. 3, 2016, pp. 77-91.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A&P by John Updike Literary Analysis. (2024, January 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
“A&P by John Updike Literary Analysis.” GradesFixer, 30 Jan. 2024,
A&P by John Updike Literary Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
A&P by John Updike Literary Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jan 30 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from:
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