Indivdualism Essay

This essay has a total of 867 words and 5 pages.


John Updike wrote many books and short stories. Many of his characters resembled people
he knew or they reflected his views on what was going on in America (Interview 75-79).
They expressed his views on the value system that people lived by. One of these ideas was
individualism. Individualism has not always been present in society. Up until the late
1960’s, people accepted whatever was happening around them. Very few stood up for
themselves or for others. Many people wished to, but were too afraid to speak up. They
had to find other ways of expressing what they really thought. John Updike’s idea of
individuality expressed through the character of Sammy, in “A&P,” closes the gap between
the 1950’s value system and today.

To be an individual is characterized by many things. An individual knows how to think for
themselves. They strive for independence and put their needs in front of others. If
something is considered, “the thing to do,” they will steer in the opposite direction. An
individual wants to be seen differently from the rest of society. They want to have
uniqueness unlike any other.

Conformists, on the other hand, are people who thrive on being accepted. They wear the
trendy clothes and put a group’s best interest ahead of their own. They act in whatever
way is acceptable to the group they wish to be apart of. Conformists tell people what
they want to hear rather than speaking their own mind. They are prisoners within
themselves. They are monotonous and carry on the same way day in and day out.
Conformists are amusing due to their lack of thought. Sammy recognizes this when he
refers to the shoppers as, “The sheep pushing their carts down the aisle” (Literature 13).

In the late 1950’s, individuality was rarely seen. People wanted to be just like their
neighbors. They moved into houses identical to those all around them. Men always wore
suits and ties and women wore dresses. People did everything to please society and keep
their status equal with those amongst them (Stata 1-2). Communism was a scare to our
country during this time. No one wanted their neighbor to think they were a communist.
This added to their desire to be accepted. If they were not accepted they would be, not
just disliked, but ostracized. Due to this, they all became conformists. They lived by
the silent laws of conformity, which pushed for everyone to be the same. “Conformity was
the measure of popularity as well as moral rightness” (Short 6).

In today’s society individualism is greatly enforced. We have been told since our sandbox
days to be different. Do something new and exciting to get recognition. We want
notability for ourselves. We don’t want to be like the guy next door. The American Dream
has changed since the 1950’s. Today people strive to be rich. They want to be able to
top their friends and family when it comes to material. Money is what matters. Each
person has to try a new way to achieve this dream of money, which pushes him or her to
seek individuality. This will help them learn what makes them different and use it to
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