In the classic short story "A & P", John Updike portrays a pessimistic view of the role of the individual in society. The society he presents to the reader is one in which its citizens follow pre-determined rules, a set path, and similar habits. The individual has no role in this society, and any attempt to escape these set customs will result in shame. Well before the dramatic opportunity presents itself for Sammy, the protagonist, to quit his job, his narrative voice has established his individualism and imagination that already set him at odds with his job's dull and boring regularity. However, the views that Updike presents in "A & P" are not out-dated and still have relevance to today's society.
The three girls entering the store in bathing suits, "walking against the usual traffic" (Updike, pg. 222), coming down the aisle, symbolize Sammy's individualism. Because of the girls" different appearance and behavior from the usual shoppers in the A & P, Sammy couldn't help but stare. This type of dress was not part of the "A & P policy", especially since "the women generally put on a shirt or shorts or something before they get out of the car into the street" (Updike, pg. 223). .
The three girls are unique in Sammy's view because they do not follow the "unwritten code" of standard grocery shopping. This is exemplified through his description of the other shoppers in A & P. Sammy refers to the shoppers as "sheep" (Updike, pg. 225) twice in the story. The first of these instances is when he views the customers continuing to push their carts down the aisle only glancing slightly at the girls and continuing to shop. Sammy "bets you could set off dynamite in an A & P and the people would by large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering-(Updike, pg. 222). The second time is when the girls go to the checkout lane and Lengel starts to explain the policy. "All this while, the customers had been showing up with their carts but, you know sheep, seeing a scene, they had all bunched up on Stokesie-(Updike, pg.