Analysis Of Life Lessons And Symbolism In T.c. Boyle’s Short Story Greasy Lake

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

The narrator, in the short story “Greasy Lake” written by TC Boyle, learned a few hard lessons throughout the story. In the beginning of the story they believed they were dangerous characters and that it was “Good to be bad”. The narrator describes a world in which “courtesy and winning ways are out of style” (Boyle page 168).

Meaning he and his friends think it is good to be bad when you “cultivate decadence like a taste” (Boyle page 167). They learned painful lessons throughout the story that reveal there is a price to pay when trying to appear “Bad” and being bad is not all it is cracked up to be. The theme of this short story is there is a fine line between fun and destruction and that striving to be bad in order to be viewed as cool can result in terrifying and deadly events and can have serious consequences.

There were many events that happened in this story that convinced the reader that these boys were not actually bad and were just portraying a “Bad” lifestyle. In the beginning of the story the narrator describes the boy’s style and how they portray themselves. “We wore torn-up leather jackets, slouched around with toothpicks in our mouths, sniffed glue and ether and what somebody claimed was cocaine” (Boyle page 168). Reading that description showed the reader that these boys were just putting on an act and were just following and dressing how they think is considered “bad”. The fact that they would sniff cocaine, or what they were told was cocaine, shows us that they were just doing drugs because it seemed “cool”.

Kids always think getting drunk or doing drugs is fun, but too often it can turn into something horrible and tragic. There was an incident at my high school where a group of teenage boys got drunk and decided to go for a joy ride. These boys were considered the “cool kids” and they were always skipping school and terrorizing the teachers at school. The night these boys went for a drunken joy ride they hit a pole on a windy road and two of them sadly passed away due to severe injuries. This was such a sad and tragic thing for our high school. The one boy who survived the accident happened to be the driver. He learned his lesson that night and turned his life around and is now a firefighter with a wife and children.

The boys decide to pull a prank on who they think is their friend which turned out to be a “Bad greasy character” (Boyle page 169). They realize they picked the wrong person to mess with and very quickly knew that they were in serious trouble. The bad character was with his fling of the night at the time and was interrupted when the boys pulled the prank on him. The bad character decides to start a fight with the boys which comes to an unexpected end when the narrator bashes the bad guy over the head with a tire iron. “In any case, there was no reasoning with this bad greasy character-clearly he was a man of action. The first lusty Rockette kick of his steel-toed boot caught me under the chin, chipped my favorite tooth, and left me sprawled in the dirt” (Boyle page 169).

At the end of the fight the narrator has a broken tooth as a result from a kick in the face. The boys then think they possibly murdered the bad character and immediately panic and worry about the consequences to follow. This situation reminded me about something I read in Julie Beck’s article “When Are You Really an Adult”. Julie Beck wrote “Adulthood is a social contract. For that matter, so is childhood. But like all social constructs, they have real consequences. They determine who is legally responsible for their actions and who is not, what roles people can assume in society, how people view each other, and how they view themselves. But even in the realms where it should be easiest to define the difference-law, physical development-adulthood defies simplicity.” (Beck page 2). The boys have no regard for the law and do not think about the consequences for their actions until it is too late.

After the incident with the bad character the boys realize the girl who was accompanying the bad character had witnessed the entire event. Instead of realizing what had just happened and comforting the young girl the boys decide to attempt to rape her. Thankfully, before they were able to do anything harmful to the girl, they met two frat boys and decided to run off out of sight into the bog around the lake. “We bolted. First for the car, and then, realizing we had no way of starting it, for the woods. I thought nothing. I thought escape. The headlights came at me like accusing fingers. I was gone” (Boyle Page 171). They were stuck in the bog wading through the nasty water waiting to come out once the frat boys were gone. The narrator then stumbles upon a dead body in the bog and fear takes over his entire body. “As I was about to take the plunge-at the very instant I dropped my shoulder for the first slashing stroke-I blundered into something. Something unspeakable, obscene, something soft, wet, moss-grown. A patch of weed? A log? When I reached out to tout it, it gave like a rubber duck, it gave like flesh” (Boyle Page 171).

I believe that was the moment the narrator realized that portraying this bad lifestyle was scary and not the life he would want for himself. Towards the end of the story the boys are in the car and finally happy to end such a nightmare of an evening. They were approached by two “stoned” girls and asked to party and do drugs with them. The boys usually would have loved the thought of partying all day with girls and doing drugs. After the night they had they decide to decline the girls offer and drove home. The fact that they declined the girls offer to party shows that they learned their lesson that scary evening. They realized what scary things can happen when you are living a bad lifestyle and they do not want any part of that.

The narrator and the boys went through a series of scary events that night and learned many hard lessons. They learn that there is a fine line between fun and destruction and that striving to be bad in order to be viewed as cool can result in terrifying and deadly events. These events can have serious consequences. The boys had to learn the hard way and experience these events in order to fully understand how dangerous it is to live that lifestyle.

By the end of the night all they want to do is go home into their own beds. After declining the “stoned” girls party invitation all three of the boys “stared straight ahead, rigid as catatonics” (Boyle page 174) and just drive off and head home. That decision the boys made showed the reader that the boys have changed their ways due to these scary events and will hopefully stop trying to portray that bad lifestyle.


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