Theme Of Initiation In Updike's "A&P"

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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In John Updike's short story A & P, a young man named Sammy takes witness to what he sees as an injustice happening to a group of bikini-clad teenage girls in the grocery store in which he works. He takes a bold step and decides he would rather not work for a manager that decided to embarrass the young girls in front of everyone instead of addressing them privately, so he quits. The bold step that he takes is part of his initiation into adulthood. Updike develops the initiation through the story and it becomes the central theme.

The theme of initiation can be very broad and viewed in many different perspectives. The teenage boy in the story could be seen as being initiated into the adult world. I can remember many times in my own life that were almost like a light switch clicking on and I realized I was becoming more mature.

Times when I would usually kick myself for acting like my parents, but instead all of the sudden made sense. The boy from the story fell in love with this girl as soon as he saw her and he was so infatuated by her that he wanted to stand up for her. He could have said something while the manager was embarrassing her, but he might not have wanted to call even more attention to the awkward situation she was already in. By keeping it discreet, it really stands out that he was just quitting because he saw an injustice and not just for the attention of the girl. This surprised me, because since the manager didn't hear him the first time he said that he quits, he had a chance to retract it since he knew the girls didn't hear it and they were...