The coming of adulthood There is a time in every young person’s life, where they are faced with the trials of growing up. In the short story A&P by author John Updike, he introduces a young man named Sammy who is mesmerized by three young girls who have entered the grocery store in which he works. Updike described the different emotions Sammy goes through in his transition from the thoughts of lust to acting in the defense of the girls and finally quitting his job.
Through the choices that are made and the reactions of others to those choices, the author shows that growing up is a mixture of immaturity, the desire for ndividuality, and ultimately rebellion. Although immaturity is a part of growing up that cannot be avoided, almost everybody handles it differently. Maturity is not something that happens overnight. Maturity comes from trial and error and in rare cases is heeding the wisdom of people who have gone before you. But for the most part, one has to experience for themselves before they learn their lesson.
In A&P, Sammy takes notices of every little feature and describes each girl in high detail. From body type, to what they are wearing, to the way they carry themselves. He leaves nothing out. Sammy’s first instinct is to point out the highlights and flaws of the different girls on sight, he makes pre-determined ideals about the girls only based there appearances or how they carry themselves. Most would find this rather immature at the very least. “Usually defined as the second decade of life, adolescence is the period of transition from childhood to adulthood.
Researchers now note that bodily and brain changes associated with adolescence may begin as early as age 8 and extend until age 24 (McNeely 4). In the book The Teen Years Explained by Clea McNeely, it is discussed the any stages a young mind goes through on its journey to adult hood. Immaturity is simply part of growing up, as Sammy takes notice of the girls he shows this immaturity by formulating opinions of the girls before knowing or meeting them personally. The next step in growing up commonly appears to be the search of individuality.
Young people are forever searching for individuality, to be unique is to feel special or important. This desire consists of finding ways to stand out and to separate one’s self from appearing to be a part of the crowd. For most blending in does not seem to cut it. When you are born, you are a tiny insignificant spec in this humongous world. It will depend on your individuality to make yourself grow and move ahead or stay low and far behind. Making yourself a good individual will help you survive in the world, succeed, and be recognized and understood by people.
After Lengel confronted the girls in front of the whole store “they are in a hurry to get out, so I say “I quit” to Lengel quick enough for them to hear, hoping they’ll stop and watch me, their unsuspecting hero” (Updike 434). Hoping that the girls would notice him for tanding up to his boss on their behalf. Sammy was done with being a “sheep” as he described. In an attempt to claim his individuality and impress the girls, Sammy feels the need to defend them and quit his job.
On the one hand, each person desires to be an individuated being, separate for everything (and everyone) else, and unique; on the other hand, each desires to lose his or her individuality and be absorbed into everything else” (Izenberg 18). Author Gerald N. Izenberg talks about many facets of individuality in his book Impossible Individuality. One being the way people seek individuality in rder to stand out and be noticed, only to be able to shed that same individuality and be joined to, or with someone or something.
For most young adults, finding their individuality means separating themselves from the authority placed over them. This often leads to different forms of rebellion. Rebellion is an act of violence or resistance to the authority that has been placed over you. One might think that rebellion is the only way to express one’s individuality while being closely watched or expected to conform to a curtain code. The causes of teenage rebellion aren’t that complex. In order to become fully- functional adults, children need to separate themselves from dependency on adults.
They need to assert themselves as grown human beings with thoughts and ideas of their own, that may be different from the generation that came before them. In an attempt to express his individuality Sammy feels the need to rebel and quit his job. “Sammy you don’t want to do this to your mom and dad” (Updike 435) Lengel says. Sammy replies “your right, I don’t” (Updike 435). But by this time in the story Sammy has gone too far to back pedal now. He knows that to take the inal steps and become his own person, he has to go through with what he has started.
So he takes of his bow tie and apron and walks out of the store, hoping the girls would be on the other side of the door waiting for him, ready to sing his praises and thank him the heroism he displayed inside. “In a study of adolescent sexuality, the social psychologist Janice Irving identifies nine areas that contribute to identity building during the adolescent years. These are gender relations; sexual identities; reproductive strategies; sexual language; the role of the family; non-reproductive sexuality; the purpose of sex; eaning of the body and sexual violence.
Irving shows that cultural differences color each of these categories even as culture creates differences in understanding and behavior everywhere” (Falk 82). In the book Youth Culture and the Generation Gap, Gerhard Falk and Ursula Falk address the steps of adolescents seeking individuality through rebellion and other avenues of growth. Much like Sammy displaying his rebellion toward his boss, and also against his parents. He reached the time in his life where he felt the need to become his own man in attempt to woo the young ladies.
So in an effort to stand out, to e an individual, Sammy much like most teenagers’ rebels in hope to appear to be his own person, and attract the attention of the opposite sex. Growing up, people experience many different hurdles, be it immaturity, individuality, or rebellion… etc. The choices that are made and the way the people around handle those choices greatly affect the situation. “Adolescence: You thought it was over at 18. Not so fast. For those who study adolescence as a stage of life, treat it as a disease, sell to it as a market, entertain it with songs and shows that make it seem the greatest time of life” (Dryfoos 189).
Sammy is eyeing the three girls who walk into his supermarket where he is a checker. His contemplation is interrupted, however by a “witch” whose “feathers” Sammy has to smooth. The older generation are typically symbolized in negative terms throughout the story, those who cannot and will not understand youth. Stokesie, Sammy’s older co-worker, is symbolic of the life Sammy may well be headed for married, tied down with children, and few options for another life. Lengel, the manager, is symbolic of those too far gone, the adults who, like the witches, could not care less about youthful ambition.