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Analysis of Greasy Lake

October 30th, 2020
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The short story Greasy Lake discusses the issue that remains topical to the contemporary society. In this literary work, three youngsters are in search for adventures to release their rebellious spirit. Although the characters are still young and innocent, their childish pranks gradually transform into a real crime. The youngsters attempt to seem adults, but they do not want to be responsible for the consequences of their actions. While the characters come from privileged and wealthy families, they are not afraid of punishment for their criminal actions. Guided by their wicked motivation and desires, the three young men harm and injure other people by a mistake. Nevertheless, the consequences of their game are horrible. To convey the characters’ spirit and emphasize their inner and outer struggle, Boyle uses certain literary techniques. Therefore, although the men’s rebellious behavior represents the spirit of the changing culture, it can be regarded as the conflict between characters’ desires and their ethical responsibilities.

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To depict the rebellious wild behavior of the young men in their teenage years, the author applies ironic tone from the first sentences of his story. Thus, Boyle (1986) notes, 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. We were all dangerous characters then. The beginning of the story makes the reader prepared for the darkly humorous events that would take place further. Moreover, the particular mood is preserved throughout the story, even when the youngsters cross over a line of the childish game to face the experiences of adulthood. Although the teenagers really become dangerous characters in the story, they act as helpless children. In addition, the first paragraph of the literary work opens the curtains to the real world, which the author presents through his funhouse mirror (Charters, 1983). Thereby, using ironic tone, Boyle introduces the audience with three teenagers who attempt to be dangerous adults.

At the same time, Boyle underlines the fact that these teenagers have lost their path in life. To strengthen this message, the author uses first-person narration and a setting that evokes a feeling of hopeless and desperation (Walker, 1994). Thus, Boyle portrays a youngster and his friends whose childish game cost their youth (Charters, 1983). While the young men from the middle class have never thought about the consequences of their actions, this particular adventure on a summer night will force them to change their behavior. Furthermore, using the first-person narration, the author can develop his experiences as a sort of pampered punk, portraying authentic events as well as the rebellious character of the boys (Boyle, 1986). In addition, the setting of the story is fetid and murky waters of Greasy Lake (Boyle, 1986). It is a hostile place of broken glass and…beer cans and charred remains of bonfires, which appears to be a perfect surrounding to make the boys eventually realize that their actions violate human moral responsibilities. Thus, Boyle’s characters have overstepped the limit of childhood where they would not be punished for their behavior, attempting to oppose the comforts of their families.

Although the three male characters act brutally, they are afraid to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The youngsters become initiators of a series of events that cause serious troubles to them. Moreover, this childish adventure almost leads to a tragedy in their lives. Indeed, the adolescents make a set of wrong choices that eventually lead them to a bad ending. The first mistake the youngsters have made is the decision to go to Greasy Lake. Then, the boys foolishly disturb a car and its passengers, a bad greasy character and his fox (Boyle, 1986). Boyle makes a parallel between the title of the story and depiction of the characters’ victim to underline the darkness and unpleasantness of the place and events that unfold throughout the narrative. At the same time, the narrator drops the keys from his mothers car, which can be regarded as a powerful sign to stop doing mistakes. In this respect, the characters have had three opportunities to stop acting as criminals, but the pursuit of adventure as well as a desire to be bad is stronger than these young men.

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Although the youngsters attempt to seem carefree rebels who act badly, their wildness quickly dispels because eventually they understand that they are just three irresponsible boys. At the same time, their brutal actions and attacks have a childish character because teenagers turn out to be unable to cope with the consequences of their wrongdoings. Additionally, the fear to take responsibility for the problems these adolescents have created is strengthened by the child-like desire to run away (Charters, 1983). Their journey to the lake involves a drive into the dark primordial ooze waters. The narrator states: There we were, dirty, bloody, guilty, dissociated from humanity and civilization (Boyle, 1986, p. 9). Boyles imagery strengthens the affect of the narrative a descent into the darkness of the conflict between the characters desires and their ethical responsibilities (Walker, 1994). In addition, this sentence perfectly conveys the storys conflict, especially the fight of the characters with the consequences of their deeds. Thus, although the youngsters understand that their actions violate human moral, their childish ignorance and impunity lead to an unforgivable mistake.

In addition, the true desire of the youngsters to oppose the established order conflicts with the comforts of the middle class, which they cannot refuse from. A series of events these boys give a beginning to can be regarded as a challenge to the society they live in. Being representatives of wealthy families, the youngsters are not afraid of the punishment for their pranks. Nevertheless, the first thought that arises in boys’ minds after understanding the seriousness of their deeds is to escape from the scene of the crime to the comforts of the middle class. Indeed, in their family houses, these teenagers may remain innocent children under protection of their parents. Although the adolescents are frightened and confused, they still find escape in their innocent childish denial that they can avoid responsibility for the consequences of their actions. At the same time, the episode when the narrator lurches towards the dead body represents a twist from childish behavior into adult responsibility for the deeds. The narrator notes, I was nineteen, a mere child, an infant, and here in the space of five minutes Id struck down one greasy character and blundered into the waterlogged carcass of the second (Boyle, 1986, p. 10). Thus, the character understands that the time when it was good to be bad is in the past and now he has to accept his manhood. Boyle (1986) shows that becoming an adult is inevitable and sooner or later the men should take responsibility for their behavior.

The adventure at the summer night helps the characters reach an understanding about the struggle in their lives as well as importance of choice. Thus, a series of trials the adolescents experience that night forces them to comprehend the consequences of their behavior. At the end of the story, the characters refuse from the offer to party with girls they encounter, I just looked at her. I thought I was going to cry. Digby broke the silence. No thanks, he said, leaning over me. Some other time (Boyle, 1986, p.13). These words show the reader that boys have come to the realization of their actions after the night at the lake. While at the beginning of the story the youngsters name themselves dangerous, at the end one of them is going to cry, which conflicts with the self-described bad characters. In addition, the story itself can be regarded as an emergence from the dark that helps the characters to obtain a different perspective on their lives. Thereby, Boyle’s characters undergo a serious transformation, realizing the value of human actions and responsibility.

To conclude, the short story Greasy Lake portrays three youngsters whose rebellious behavior demonstrates a cultural change as well as a moral conflict. Moreover, Boyle represents a dilemma that confronts the young men. Although the characters follow their desires, they eventually understand that everyone should be ready to face the consequences of his or her actions. At the beginning of the story, the author shows that the three youngsters have lost their path in life. Attempting to look adult, teenagers misunderstand the meaning of adulthood and thus make a series of wrong choices. Furthermore, their brutal behavior and refusal to deal with the consequences of their actions show how childish these young men are. Although the characters are from middle class families, they have committed a crime and thus should take responsibility for their deed. The climax of the inner conflict comes when the boys refuse to be bad characters. Thus, through the conflict between the boys’ motivation and their ethical responsibilities, Boyle shows the difficulties of growing up from a child into a man.

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