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Sammy in A&P by John Updike

Conflict is a fundamental part of human existence. Everyone at some point in their journey of life faces conflict. It is this conflict that defines a character and develops growth. It is fundamental to understand that conflict is what leads to personal growth. In A&P by John Updike, Sammy shows how internal conflict helped him understand himself better and grow to understand the values of responsibility and respect. At the same time, Sammy saw how society was restricting him in the rules and social norms expected by his boss.

These conflicts that he faces lead him to make choices in life that help him understand the world’s consequences and expectations. Sammy is a character that has many qualities. At first, you can say he is distracted. His encounter with the old lady and his mistake at the register proves that he is very unfocused and strayed in his thoughts. He also loves detail. The descriptions he gives within the story show how particular he sees every detail. He seemed to know the store well enough to know exactly in each aisle that the girls walked through. Sammy also seemed very interested in the girls because of his lack of concentration on the other shoppers in the store.

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In the girls, he saw carefree behavior. He saw how they were not concerned over society’s values or with the expected norms. In a lot of ways, he wanted to be like them. At the same time, he also noted how they shopped without care for money. He knew they were rich, and he, too, wanted to be free of the restrictions that were holding him back, one of which was the lack of money. Sammy, in this story, has several conflicts. He has an inner conflict with himself, trying to build his pride and prove that he will not end up like the conformed Stokes or Lengel. He sees a bright future for himself, one with non-confirmed ways that make him successful.

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Another struggle he has is his immaturity that leads to his infatuation with Queenie, who in the end does not even notice him. He never was able to show his rebellion as he quit his job only to prove to the girls that he was too like them. Lastly, his conflict with the life he leads. The manager tells him at the end that he would regret his decision to quit and that his parents would be disappointed. This enables us, readers, to understand he had financial issues in his life that he struggled with.

Sammy has a struggle between conformity versus non-conformity in his life. This conflict he endures leads him to quit his job. He describes his working condition as very poor and low as he calls his cashier lane a “slot.” He does not really conform to his working conditions. He explains how he is not like Stokes, a married man who works as A&P and finds it beneath him to be working there in his awaiting future. Stokes is an example of conformity trying to go up the corporate ladder of this supermarket. At the same time, Sammy only sees himself there for a short time and eventually wants to do better and greater things with his life, hence his nonconformity to the store.

In the store itself, we begin to see a conflict arising as the girls enter the store. The way the girls present themselves in their bathing suits offsets the customers in the store and the routine and flow within the supermarket as people begin to stare at them and their lustful bodies. This fashion style in a supermarket enables us, readers, to question the girl’s attitude of non-conformity. We see a conflict arising as the girls go against store policy, even if it was unknowingly. As the story continues, we see the store manager, Lengel confront the girls and point out their inappropriate attire in the supermarket. Embarrassed by this scene, Queenie, the girl whom Sammy is infatuated with, tries to justify her actions.

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Once the girls leave, Sammy views what the store manager did as embarrassing and disrespectful to the girls and quits. He sees a life of sophistication and luxury in Queenie’s life and quits to pursue this desire. He did all this only to try to impress the girls and show that he, too, was not a person with conformity but rather a rebel. The store manager can also be an example of conformity that Sammy and his non-conformist ways conflict with. He wants to prove to the girls that he is not like Stokes or Lengel and shows the gesture of quitting to impress the girls, but this only gets unnoticed.

Lastly, Sammy quits his job, and Lengel tells him he would regret this. The struggle Sammy has in his life is one of the financial problems that stop him from leading his life of non-conformity. He, in many ways, is not able to afford the rebellious lifestyle but, in the end, chooses it only to win over Queenie, his immature infatuation. Sammy does not make a smart choice, but one can argue that he made a choice that he was happy with in the end. Although he would be content with his decision, it is a fact that his parents would be disappointed in him, and this again leads to another conflict in his life with his caretakers.

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Sammy in A&P by John Updike. (2021, Sep 14). Retrieved May 27, 2022, from