Greasy Lake

2 February 2017

There comes a time in every young man’s life for him to break a barrier of reality to go from invincibility to mortality. They have to take that leap forward gradually, but as they do they will make mistakes along the way and have to learn from the bad ones. The short story “Greasy Lake” by T. Coraghessan Boyle is about three young men who have to break that barrier of reality in one horrible night by making mistake after mistake, only they have to learn from their mistakes quickly or they wont get out of their bad situation.

There are two different symbols, themes, and characters that have meaning to it in this story. The symbols are the key being lost, and the water itself signifies a rebirth. The themes that are seen in this story are that the point of view was told from an older person looking back at his younger years and that he would have to learn from the mistakes of the past. The characters that have meanings to them are the main character and Bobby (the bad guy).

Greasy Lake Essay Example

Three wanna be bad characters made their main mistake of the night by driving out to Greasy Lake, a place everyone went to hang out. When they arrived they saw what appeared to be their friend’s car parked so they began flashing their headlights and honking the horn. When the main character gets out of the car he drops the key to the car and there is a dramatic feeling that comes over him, Boyle really explains it well when the character explains how he feels at that moment. The first mistake, the one that opened the whole floodgate, was losing my grip on the keys.

In the excitement, leaping from the car with the gin in one hand and a roach clip in the other, I spilled them in the grass—-in the dark, rank, mysterious nighttime grass of Greasy Lake. This was tactical error, as damaging and irreversible in it’s way as Westmoreland’s decision to dig in at Khe Sanh. I felt it like a jab of intuition, and I stopped there by the open door, peering vaguely into the night that puddled up round my feet.

Boyle is showing how the character is worried that the keys are lost in the dark, rank, mysterious nighttime grass and its going to be hard to find them if at all in that and it’s all his fault that they wont be able to escape the fate they are about to encounter. In Michael Walkers article about the symbol of losing the key he explains how it was,”this [loss of the car keys] was a tactical error, as damaging and irreversible”(3). He also explains how Boyle compares the loss of the keys in the dirty water and the dark night as being in the Vietnam War(3).

The character could have at least tried to find the keys, but instead he went to mess with the guy he thought was his friend in the car, they all got into a fight with this bad guy who gets out of the car. The main character hits the guy over the head with a tire iron and they all think he is dead. They all three attempt raping the bad characters girlfriend until a car pulls up,they run to the car until they remember the keys are still lost. Then they are all on their own.

The consequence the main character has to overcome is him running and hiding from the people who came upon him and his friends as they were raping the bad characters girlfriend. The Greasy Lake, although it was filled with insect’s, and foul odor’s. Although thinking they wouldn’t find him there, he ran knee deep into the Greasy Lake. MaterplotsII explains, “narrator’s submersion into the lake, in his fear and guilt, amounts to a ritual baptism; the fetid waters are appropriate to his “”filthy”” moral condition”(2).

The water and being baptized can mean being a new person in religious terms if you go to church it means your no longer with sin, so when he bumps into the dead body the meaning is for him to see death, and when he goes under water he comes up a new person reborn. Although while in the water he overhears the bad character he thought he killed by hitting over the head with a tire iron; get up and threaten to come and find him and his friends, but instead the bad character (Bobby) demolishes his (main characters) mothers car. The whole time the main haracter stays hiding in the disgusting waters of the Greasy Lake. Thinking back once again if he wouldn’t have lost the keys his “grail and salvation”(MasterplotsII).

A lot of times older people will tell stories from their childhood of how they did so many foolish things and had such fun doing them that sometimes they get carried away with their stories and will take them out of context, for example in Masterplots II it says, “Were it not for the story’s obvious dual point of view- an older, mature narrator looking back at his foolish ounger self”(2). The only way to learn from mistakes is to make them, and then learn from them. In this story it’s clear that it is being told by an older more mature adult that has already learned quite a few things from no doubt some of their mistakes, in Greasy Lake it seems as though this guy goes through mistake after mistake.

First he looses his car key, then gets kicked in the face, tries to rape a girl, runs into the dirty lake where he bumps into a dead corpse, but from the time he goes under the water he seems to come up a different person. He has learned something from all his trouble, he doesn’t want to act bad anymore by getting out of the water to fight the bad guy (Bobby), he stays in the water until he hears him leave, even though he hears him wrecking his mothers car.

Then when he realizes he is not a bad character, it’s clear to come out he realizes it is dawn and the light reveals the key that was lost, they rejected the drugs that were offered to them, showing some sort of sign that they are not such bad characters anymore, then they get into the main characters mom’s car realizing that the bad guy (Bobby), could have totally demolished the car then they would have never been able to have left the Greasy Lake, so they were overjoyed. The two main characters that have symbolic meanings are the narrator and the bad guy (Bobby). The narrator is looking back from his older, more mature age.

His inflated, often ironic rhetoric heightens the story’s humor. Despite it’s many slapstick elements, the incident serves as a kind of initiation rite for the participants. After a series of stupid mistakes, the narrator comes close to actually being the “bad character” he only previously mimicked: … Then stumbling through the stagnant water, the narrator discovers the body of a drowned biker, an experience he describes as one of life’s inescapable “nasty little epiphanies” (Literature Resource Center). Which he lives in this one night of mistakes and he experiences his own maturity toward adulthood.

Bobby is the “quintessential”(2) bad guy in the story. He is a, “big, greasy thug who favors expletives. His shiftless brawn, mask-like face, and steel-toe boots make him a terrifying opponent” (2). Even thought he gets hit with the tire-iron he somehow gets up off the ground, composes himself, and manages to keep his “bad guy” image by demolishing the car that belonged to the narrator’s mom. Only after he realizes he can’t get his hands on the narrator to hurt him, he decides to demolish the car instead thinking he will leave them there stranded.

And so these three young men have to endure many difficult incidents beginning with the narrator loosing the key to the car, then getting into the “murky” and “fetid” water of Greasy Lake. This story showed a dual point of view, being told a more mature, older narrator, as he looked back from his younger years describing this one night as a, “initiation ritual” (Masterplots II) or a, “dark night of the soul,” in religious terms. Masterplots II is saying that they have grown since the beginning of the night, become more mature. Masterplots II also explains the theme as being summarized by, “Through suffering comes wisdom.

This story has a lot of support of this as the narrator is constantly making mistake after mistake, so therefore he is being punished, then after he gets out of the water, he is like new, the sun comes up. He finds the key he dropped, rejected the offer of drugs he is actually showing the responsibilities of an adult. He also realizes they can drive home because Bobby didn’t slash the tires on his mom’s car. The narrator is probably so confused at the end of the story, not knowing if he should be excited he is finally growing up or dreading what his mother will say when he arrives with her car totally demolished.

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Greasy Lake. (2017, Feb 03). Retrieved August 1, 2021, from https://newyorkessays.com/essay-greasy-lake/
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