© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
A Supermarket in California

A Supermarket in California

by Allen Ginsberg

Sexuality and Sexual Identity Theme

One of the biggest connections that Ginsberg feels with Whitman (and Garcia Lorca) in "A Supermarket in California" is that the poets were gay men, in times when being gay was not exactly a-okay with most of the population. The speaker of the poem feels outside of the mainstream while he wanders through the supermarket and through the darkened streets, and part of the reason for this is his alternative sexual identity. While this poem is not all that explicit about sexual identity, there are some subtle yet important clues in the poem that suggest that the speaker's outsider status is due to his being gay.

Questions About Sexuality and Sexual Identity

  1. As a gay man in the 19th century, Whitman never had any children, and Ginsberg spends a lot of the poem positing himself as Whitman's poetic son. Do you think that Ginsberg is building an alternative kind of family here? 
  2. As a gay man, what is the speaker's relationship to the families that he sees in the poem?
  3. Is the speaker's loneliness due to the fact that he's a gay man in an unaccepting culture? If not, what's it due to?
  4. Do you find any specific references to sexual identity in the poem? Or do you need to know certain biographical information to help you interpret it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker is jealous of the families that he sees shopping in the supermarket. Because he's a gay man in the 1950s, he knows he'll never have a family of his own.

The speaker admires the families that he sees in the supermarket, and creates his own alternative family of gay poets.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement