The themes in Shopgirl echo its social concerns. The guiding theme is revealed in a phrase Mirabelle overhears: "just remember, darling, it is pain that changes our lives." One avenue for pain lies in modernday isolation and its companions, depression and loneliness. Martin shows the effects of Los Angeles-style superficiality on lonely people. He describes Beverly Hills as a place where "young men, searching for young women who remind them of their face-lifted mothers, are stranded and forlorn in a sea of natural-looking twenty-five year olds." In this world, superficiality replaces genuine human interactions.
Mirabelle sees the emptiness in others.
Describing the salesgirls in the cosmetics department where she works, she disdains their application of lipstick, comparing them to "Man Ray's disembodied lips floating over a landscape of boxed perfumes."
Mirabelle's isolation amplifies her own awkwardness, too. At an art opening, she drinks a glass of wine while she...