"A Supermarket in California" Essay

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During the 1950’s, a group of young American writers began to openly oppose societal norms in favor of other radical beliefs. These writers believed in ideas such as spiritual and sexual liberation, decriminalization of drugs, and opposition to industrialism as well as consumerism (Parkins). Over time, these writers became known as the Beat Generation and created the Beat Movement. Among the members of this rebellious group was the infamous Allen Ginsberg who is considerably one of the most influential poets of his time. By utilizing tools like imagery, allusions, and symbols, Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” discusses themes such as consumerism, sexuality, and alienation which reflect Ginsberg’s personal beliefs and desire …show more content…
By choosing a supermarket as the setting of the poem, the speaker alludes to American capitalism and consumerism as they are a place of wealth and choice. Also, by placing the supermarket in California, the speaker alludes to the emphasis put on material acquisition in society as California was seen as the promise land of America during the Gold Rush of 1849. While in the supermarket, the speaker continues to say, “We strode down the open corridors together in our / solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen / delicacy, and never passing the cashier” (18-20). By emphasizing the fact that they do not pass the cashier, the speaker alludes to the laws of consumerism and how the laws of the supermarket, such as paying for food, dictate society’s lives. It is rare that one simply gets to enjoy natural pleasures; rather, we must pay for them. However, as a fake neon light had foreshadowed, the speaker ultimately becomes disappointed.
The speaker is essentially disappointed after entering the supermarket. He exclaims, “What peaches and what penumbras!” (6). The usage of “penumbras!” (6), depicts the false illusion of a light, or natural, world from the outside which the speaker hopes for and the dark, or consumer, world which he finds inside the supermarket. He continues to say, “Whole families / shopping at night!” (6-7), where night is another allusion to the darkness of consumerism and society in itself.

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