The power of consumer culture is capable of manipulating million of minds. Contemporary society, therefore, is reluctant to resist the commonalities and fashions of trends dictating by advertising and consumer-conditioned society. Conformist tendencies are also brightly revealed in the story called A & P written by John Updike.
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In the story, the author emphasizes the overwhelming dependence of society on the commodity culture and other consumer trends that make people adhere to the mass consciousness. However, Sammy, the protagonist of the story, is among the pioneer who manages to oppose to the constructed system and prove to himself that he is able to express personal views on societal culture.
Despite the criticism of the story representing it as an absurd action of a teenager attracted by girls, the story provides a message about the consequences for the welfare of society. Sammy can be regarded as a hero who tries to resist the conformist culture and express his personal view on social structure.
In the story, the protagonist realizes that people are assimilated into the corporate culture represented in the grocery store. From the very beginning, Sammy firmly believes that is not like those people visiting the story.
He calls them “sheep” and “house-slaves” whose primary purpose is to ramble near the aisles of the story and search for various products they do not actually need: “A few house-slaves in pin curlers even looked around after pushing their carts past to make sure what they had seen was correct” (Updike 150).
Sammy is sure that he cannot be compared to Stokesie whose only purpose is to be promoted on a career ladder. He is not identified with Lendel either, whose only problem is haggling cabbages and hiding behind the door office. Sammy’s cynicism, sarcasm, and self-confidence builds a gap between consumer culture and the hero’s rebellion spirit.
Sammy seems to support those who encourage a natural approach to leading life where there is no place for superficial demands dictated by the commodity culture. The protagonist does not want to be always a checkout clerk; go beyond the ‘store’ habits of people.
The emerged conflict, therefore, is inside the main hero because he is uncertain about his future. But what is for sure is that his rebellion spirit will be directed at adhering to the established frames of stereotypical behavior.
Sammy choose not to follow the fashion of the newly emerged youth generation and, at the same time, his is reluctant to follow his father steps. One of the managers, however, attempts to remind Sammy of his obligations: “Sammy, you don’t want to do this to your Mom and Dad” (Updike 151).
However, this phrase ignites the protagonist to make decision and leave the story. At the end of the story, the hero admits, “…how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (Updike 151). Though the hero proves that he is able to surpass the conventional boundaries, the society ignores his attempts to put aside the consumption habits and dictate new moral values.
In conclusion, the story is a brightest example of how consumer culture negatively affects the habits and values in society. Sammy, the main hero of the story, can be regarded a sort of hero because of his attempt to confront the firmly established norms and patterns of behavior in community. His rebellion spirit allows him to look at the situation from a different angle. The reader, therefore, is able to learn the essence of anti-conformist trends.
Updike, John. “A & P”. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Eds. Alison Booth and Kelly Mays. US: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print. 149.