A Supermarket in California Analysis

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Katie Waddle
English 12, 3
Mr. Decker
April 5, 2013

"A Supermarket in California" by Alan Ginsberg addresses Walt Whitman, who as it becomes evident throughout the poem, is Alan Ginsberg's poetic hero. Ginsberg looked up to Whitman for many reasons. Ginsberg was a bisexual or homosexual Jewish man, and Whitman was also thought to have been bisexual or homosexual. Ginsberg portrays Whitman's style and his legacy of writing by continuing Whitman's poetic assault to industrialized society and corporate and industrial growth. This assault is made evident in the poem "A Supermarket in California" because Ginsberg talks of "neon supermarkets" and uses the groceries as family members to represent a industrialized society which demanded a perfect nuclear family.

"A Supermarket in California" uses strong senses of imagery to achieve a particular effect. In the beginning of the poem, the image you get is Ginsberg walking down the street, under trees and a full moon. What is evident in this is the two sides of life. One being the urban scene of Berkley, California and one being the natural world that is being symbolized by the trees and the moon. Ginsberg is being pulled by two sides and is kind of stuck in the middle and doesn't really know what he wants in his life. Throughout the poem, the usage of unusual words to describe the two sides of life makes things more descriptive and at the same time confusing.

Unusual words are another thing that Ginsberg is known for and uses abundantly in the poem. Again, from the influence of Whitman. Coming back to the idea of the "Neon Fruit Supermarket," neon, a harsh false light," foreshadows the unavoidable disappointment that the reader of the poem knows Ginsberg will find throughout the poem. "Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!" in this whole part of the poem an allusion is created showing the darkness and evils of an industrialized society which...
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