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Analysis of “Greasy Lake” by T. Coraghessan Boyle

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In T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Greasy Lake” three boys become young men on the third, boring night of their summer vacation when they go to the muddy and shiny lake of Greasy Lake where ordinary men are faced with an extraordinary situation, a much greater force than them that cannot be dealt with and this forces the boys to see reality. Thinking that life is like a “box of chocolates” is not always the best way to view life in respect to the problems and decisions that must be faced by man, but at the beginning of this story, that seems to be the way these three teenagers see life. The three nineteen-year-old boys consider they are “bad” and “didn’t give a shit about anything”. This is ironic because the narrator is driving his mom’s Bel-Air, while Jeff is not sure what he plans to do with his life. Symbolism also occurs in the form of vehicles. For example, early in the story, the narrator describes the car they drive to Greasy Lake as an old station wagon, obviously not the “ride” of a true tough-guy.

“Greasy Lake” is a suitable title given after the location of where the story takes place. This first-person short story is taking place in early June in the silence of a single night. The narrator is faced with both internal and external conflicts. The internal conflict is that the narrator and his friends are searching for something unknown, this unknown can be self identity and the external conflicts are the antagonist of the greasy character that they confuse with their friend, and the misplacement of the car keys.

This narrator based story starts off with the adolescent teens driving around with nothing left to do. The main conflict as well as the climax of the story is getting out of the undesirable situation that could have been avoided with the bad greasy character and this was resolved by knocking the protagonist unconscious with a tire iron. Characterization was achieved by description and actions of each character. The described events could easily be depicted as a real life situation where people mistaken someone for another person and get into a confrontation. A gloomy mood was portrayed by the narrator from the description of the setting.” Coming of age” is just one of the themes of “Greasy Lake”, another may be that “No matter how bad you are, there’s always someone worst out there””Greasy Lake” is a story that portrays progression from one step to another where the main character experiences an epiphany, a moment of insight by which his view of life is greatly changed.

He now thought of the consequences that could occur on both sides of the party in the most epic battle of his life.


Boyle, T. Coraghessan. “Greasy Lake.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. 5. Kennedy, X.J./Gioia Dana. New York, New York. Pearson Longman, 2007. 120-127

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