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The Significance of Setting in “Greasy Lake”

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The title alone told me that this story had some amount of darkness to it, but the setting of “Greasy Lake” is what eluded me as to what would happen next in the story. The author, T. Coraghessan Boyle, foreshowed each phase in the story by providing the reader with such a detailed description of the setting that the reader could make relatively correct assumptions about forthcoming happenings. The setting of Greasy Lake is significant in that it foreshadows what is about to come about in the story. It keeps the reader interested and entertained throughout the story.

I first knew something bad and rebellious was going to happen when the author described the time period that the story took place in. “There was a time when courtesy and winning ways went out of style, when it was good to be bad, when you cultivated decadence like a taste”(130). The characters in the story wanted to be bad; it was cool to be bad during this time period. “We wore torn-up leather jackets and, slouched around with toothpicks in our mouths, sniffed glue and ether and what somebody claimed was cocaine” (130). These are the clothes and attitudes of misfits, rebels and druggies who think they are untouchable by the rules of society. “We drank gin and grape juice, Tango, Thunderbird, and Bali Hai. We were nineteen. We were bad.” (130). The characters are trying to tell us that they drank and partied and that this made them cool because they were only nineteen. I knew then these obviously weren’t stand up citizens going out for a fine dinner. These were mindless children looking for trouble. I could tell where this story was headed by the way T. Coraghessan Boyle laid out the setting of the story.

The way the author describes the lake itself, again led me to believe that something mischievous was going to happen in the story. “Now it was fetid and murky, the mud banks glittering with broken glass and strewn with beer cans and the charred remains of bonfires” (131). This tells me that Greasy Lake is a place that teens come to party and wreck havoc. “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” (132). The character describes where he has dropped his keys as a dark, rank, and mysterious place because something bad is going to happen to him because of this. “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 soft, wet, moss-grown. A patch of weed? A log? When I reached out to touch it, it gave like a rubber duck, it gave like flesh” (134). What a way to describe what is about to happen! This is the part in the story where the character touches a dead man in the lake.

As the story comes to an end the author shows that the lake might be a dark and dirty place but if you look at it in a different light it is not such a bad place. “When the eastern half of the sky went from black to cobalt and the trees began to separate themselves from the shadows, I pushed myself up from the mud and stepped out into the open” (135). The way the setting was described here led me to believe that the danger was gone and it was safe for the character to come out of his hiding place. “There was a smell in the air, raw and sweet at the same time, the smell of the sun firing buds and opening blossoms” (135). It is a new day and all of the bad things that happened the night before are over now and Greasy Lake doesn’t look like a dark and gloomy place anymore. “There was a sheen of sun on the lake” (137). The setting described here led me to believe that the boys had learned their lesson and that there would be brightness in their futures.

The setting of Greasy Lake is significant in that it foreshadows what is about to come about in the story. It keeps the reader interested and entertained throughout the story. Without the detailed description of the setting in “Greasy Lake” the story might have been a bland tale of some teenagers at a lake. Greasy lake is a place where people go to party, drink, do drugs, and make out. The lake is a dark place where all of the rules of the world can be forgotten and ignored. This is how the setting is described to us as readers and this leads us to draw assumptions on how the story will take place. I believe it is easier to relate to a story when you know as much as you can about the setting. I was able to relate to this story, and the changes in the setting of the story definitely kept me intrigued.

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