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Johnny An
Mr. Cosmin
English 102
25 February 2015
A Supermarket in California Analysis
The poem called A Supermarket in California mainly written to criticize of
a modern days Americas culture. Ginsberg uses a supermarket as a description of an
America and how it does not satisfy the problem that modern day of an America has.
Throughout the poem Ginsberg expresses of an admiration for a poet Walt Whitman,
and asks for solution of its problem in the culture of an America, but there seems to
be no answer.
Moving from the theme of the poem it starts with Allen Ginsberg, the writer,
imagine talking to Walt Whitman. Ginsberg represents modern day American citizens
and its struggle. Ginsberg walks down the side streets alone, looking at the moon and
talking to an imaginary friend, suggests a lonely mood which refers to the problem of
an America. Whitman seems to be a role model for Ginsberg or perhaps was
influential in Ginsbergs decision to be a poet, because Ginsbergs mind was filled
thoughts of Whitman to the point that he could talk to him, even though Whitman
died 32 years before Ginsberg was born.
The poem itself has criticizes the culture of modern America. The reader can
clearly notice from the second sentence, that the narrator is very hungry, but there is
no intention of shopping for food, but rather for images. And mentions how narrator
is going to neon fruits supermarket which it refers to fake fruit that it cannot satisfy

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the hunger. Ginsberg might be referring neon fruit as a modern Americas culture or
perhaps Ginsberg is talking about how the television of modern American culture
presents unreal images. The narrator also sees different things in the supermarket, such
as penumbras, peaches and other fruits, this seems like it represents there are always
negative things among positive things just like peaches are something positive things
to have in supermarket, yet there are penumbras exist which give negative feeling.
Then the speaker calls out to another imaginary poet Garcia Lorca, and says What
are you doing down by the watermelons? This gives little bit of suspiciousness and
curiosity, perhaps Garcia was trying to steal watermelon. An interesting fact about
the names that Ginsberg mentioned so far is that the poets are all homosexual, so
perhaps this is promoting gay poetry, or just displaying favoritism towards gay poets.
In fourth to fifth line of the poem, Ginsberg and Lorca are now gone, and
Whitman is left alone, maybe Whitman drew attention from Ginsberg, and Garcia by
expressing something that they are also going through, so perhaps that is why
Ginsberg and Lorca is gone in the poem. The speaker expresses how Whitman is also
lonely by referring as a childless, lonely old grubber. And also being surrounded by
family who are shopping does not help the loneliness to go away, perhaps fact that
Whitman is homosexual might causing more loneliness due to impossibility of
childbearing. All of the sudden Ginsberg imagines that Whitman is poking among the
meats and eyeing the grocery boys. The writers homosexual background lends itself
to the interpretation that Whitman is checking out the grocery boys, but it can also be
interpreted that Whitman is looking for a sale or has a question about the meat. Then
Whitman asks, Who killed the pork chops? From this, readers may argue that reason
why Whitman looked at grocery boys is not simply because Whitman is homosexual.
The second question he asks is, What price bananas? This can also be very

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sexually suggestive (BaPC), but this can be argued that Whitman was actually asking
for the price of banana. The last question Whitman asks is Are you my Angel?
This can be interpreted that Whitman was looking for something more than just
sexual connection, but rather seeking something more holy.
In next sentence, Ginsberg appears again as a one of the character with
Whitman, and imagines the store detective is following them just like they have done
something wrong. In next line, reader can notice that Ginsberg and Whitman is eating
food without paying for it, and taste artichokes and possess every frozen food and
they never pass the cashier which means that they are stealing food in a supermarket.
Ginsberg and Whitman does not seem to be poor enough to steal food from a
supermarket, but it seems like they are representing their desperateness of finding
solution of loneliness, by stealing food. Because loneliness is like a hunger and it
needs satisfaction. Interesting about this sentence is that Ginsberg is still expressing
the loneliness by saying We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary
fancy (Ginsberg, 1995). Even though Ginsberg is with Whitman the loneliness is still
in Ginsbergs presence which supports theme of loneliness once again. Perhaps
Ginsberg is suggesting the idea of how modern culture of America cannot satisfy
loneliness, just like neon fruit cannot satisfy the hunger.
According to the sentences 8 and 9 Ginsberg seems to worry about something,
and starts asking Whitman for the direction, and this seems like Ginsberg is asking
for the solution of the loneliness which is stating again a problem of an Americas
culture. Since Whitman is someone who Ginsberg admires, perhaps Ginsberg thinks
that Whitman has solution, but Whitman does not give any, as it if Whitman has
same problem. Ginsberg continues showing the desperation through saying the door is

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close in an hour (Ginsberg, 1995) and Ginsberg seems to be a representation of the

modern day of an Americans desperation and seeking for the solution of their
loneliness. All of the sudden, Ginsberg describes this trip to the supermarket as an
odyssey which refers to a great journey, but also mentions that this trip to the
supermarket is absurd. Writer probably knows that the trip to the supermarket is not a
great trip like an odyssey, and by Ginsberg expressing this trip as absurd readers can
assume that Ginsberg is being sarcastic.
Ginsberg continues expresses the loneliness by saying this, Will we walk all
night through solitary streets? There are trees add shade to shade, lights out in the
houses, well be lonely (Ginsberg, 1995). Interestingly Ginsberg still feel lonely
though Whitman is there in the imagination with Ginsberg, perhaps writer is
suggesting the solution of loneliness is not about friend. Ginsberg asks another
question Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles
in driveways, home to our silent cottage? Ginsberg thinks America has lost their love,
and how it is less loving compare to Whitmans time period of an America. However,
Ginsberg starts thinking about 19 centaurys histories, such as civil war, slavery, and
crimes from poor economic conditions, and thinks that perhaps there was no love
existed in America.
Final sentence Ginsberg ends poem by using two different Greek mythologies,
Charon and Lethe. Charon is a ferryman who carries dead people soul to the other
side of river Styx and Lethe is a myth that people believes that drinking water from
that river can erase all your memories (Atsma, 2011). Ginsberg perhaps thinks that
solution of deep rooted loneliness, the problem of an America can be found in
spiritual believes. Finally poem ends with last question from Ginsberg, by asking how

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Whitmans America was in 1950s. However, in Ginsbergs imagination Whitman does

not answer the question back; and this suggests that Whitman is saying that
Whitmans America was not perfect either. Sadly in this poem Ginsberg makes
conclusion that there is no love, and there will be continuous loneliness in this
Ginsberg who wrote this poem starts imagines that the poet from 19 Centaury
Walt Whitman is in the modern day of an America. And Ginsberg expresses the
problem of modern day culture of an America is the loneliness. And Ginsberg and
Whitman represent American citizens, and uses supermarket as an America and
express its problem. Finally Ginsberg starts asking for solution to Walt Whitman for
the problem of an America, the loneliness. However it seems like there is no solution
for the problem of an America.

"LETHE : Greek Goddess of the Underworld River of Oblivion ;

Mythology."LETHE : Greek Goddess of the Underworld River of
Oblivion ; Mythology. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.

An 6 Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.

"Bananas and Popular Culture." Bananas and Popular Culture. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.