T. C. Boyle’s famous story, “Greasy Lake”, tells the story of three boys, aged nineteen. These boys, who lived in the days when the boys generally “cultivated decadence like a taste” (Boyle 168), went to Greasy Lake because “everyone went there”, to watch “a girl takes off her clothes”. At the beginning of the story the narrator sets the tone of the story, hinting that what is going to happen in the story will be quite bad. The structure of a story is normally analyzed by examining the beginning or exposition, conflict, climax, denouement, etc. A look at how this story moves towards its climax, how the adventures of the boys reach their climax, and how the story thus keeps readers totally absorbed, is the focus of this brief paper.
Each progressive event in “Greasy Lake” gives an impression to readers that it is the real climax. The climax gets pushed to the end of the story due to the significance of each event, and the denouement takes place rapidly. After visiting every bar and club in the vicinity of their house, the three boys, Digby, Jeff, and the narrator, head towards the Greasy Lake at 2 A. M in the night. They spot a car near the lake and think it belongs to their friend, Tony Lovett. The narrator gets a kick under his chin from a stranger who is mistaken to be Tony, a friend: “The first Rockette kick of his steel-toed boot” (Boyle 169). The “first mistake”, realizes the narrator; is the loss ignition key; the second being mistaking a stranger for Tony.
A big fight breaks out with the stranger. When the narrator hits him with the tire bar that he keeps under his seat, the story seems to have reached its climax: “all four of us—Digby, Jeff, and myself included—were chanting , as if it were a battle cry” (Boyle 170). Obviously, the story reflects the utter decadence in our society. The conflict and tension increase further when the boys are surrounded by another stranger: “It was the fox” (Boyle 170). The narrator admits that the presence of a girl at that point of time and at a place like that result in their “purest primal badness”, “the Ur-crimes behind us”, to leap out: “We were on her like Bergman’s deranged brothers” (Boyle 171). However, they turn out to be no match to her. They find they are virtually “nailed”. The boys now run for their life. Through the greasy fields, the greasy boys run towards the Greasy Lake. The narrator’s monologue, heard while in the water, is worth quoting: “I had struck down one greasy character and blundered into the waterlogged carcass of a second” (Boyle 171). He finds himself now with a floating dead body, which seems to be the climax of the story.
Fortunately the boys escape from all these dangers and come back to find their car smashed by the enemies. The realization of the imminent punishment, “police, jail cells, justices of peace, reparations, lawyers, irate parents, fraternal censure” (Boyle 172), prevented them from committing more crime. The climax finally arrives when a girl comes and offers herself to the boys. Sense prevails upon the boys. They find the tires of their car intact, though its body is smashed. The car is drivable, or the boys realize that, in spite of their bad adventure, their life seems to be “drivable”.
“Greasy Lake”, thus, shows the decadent state of modern human society. Young boys and girls get trapped into evil activities because there is absolute freedom for them. They can freely indulge in drinking, smoking, sex, etc. The narrator at one stage contemplates suicide. The greasy fact is that the boys in the story are only nineteen. Boyle has touched a social problem that should shake the conscience of all reformers.
Boyle, T. C. “Greasy Island”. The People in Action. Retrieved on 24 July 2015. http://teacherweb.com/WA/CloverParkHighSchool/MsSelby/Greasy-Lake.pdf
T. C. Boyle’s story “Greasy Lake” narrates the story of the adventure of three bad boys at the Greasy Lake at late night. This paper analyzes how the story moves towards its climax, and how it captivates the attention of readers by giving an appearance that each event looks like a climax. Therefore, each major event is brought under scrutiny in this paper to see which one of them takes the story to its real climax. Finally, the story reaches its boiling point, when a girl at the lake comes forward offering her to the boys. The boys reject her offer because the torture to which they found themselves subjected to, as a result of the physical fight with a few strangers at the lake, had already deflated them, physically and mentally. Ultimately, they escape from the lake with their smashed car, the tires of which are still intact, inflated.