In “Greasy Lake,” a short story written by T. Corghessan Boyle, three young men come into conflict while looking for good, clean fun at an old hangout. The men in the story are on a mission, one that they embarked upon by mistake and are now in a battle to overcome not only natures obstacles, but obstacles within themselves. The boys went out that night only looking to have a good time, but this night of fun turned out to be a night of terror, when the boys come into conflict with another group of young men.
There are many conflicts in this story, but the main one is the boys’s conflict with themselves. Boyle shows that men, in need for self-exploration, have limits that must be recognized. This can be shown throughout the story through the setting, the point of view and the plot structure.
The young narrator’s need for self-exploration can be seen within the setting to which takes place at a local hangout called Greasy Lake.
Every town has a local hangout where everyone goes and in a sense is a place for most young people to identify with themselves whether it be experimental in ones sexual prowess, an exploration of alcohol and drugs, or the slight possibility of a spiritual assessment. The narrator asserts the reader that himself and his two companions were “bad” and they went to the lake “because everyone went there”, and they wanted to “watch a girl take off her clothes” , “drink beer, smoke pot”, “howl at the stars”, and “savor the incongruous full-throated roar of rock and roll against the primeval susurrus of frogs and crickets”.
The setting definitely identifies with the self-exploration of these young men and can be further identified in the narrator’s point of view.
The need for self-exploration can be seen through the point of view in the fact that the narrator, who is also the main character, finds his true self in the end. Throughout the story the narrator can be seen searching within himself, asking questions and searching for answers. He realizes that the decisions he makes now will affect the outcome of his life, and the lives of the other characters in the story. In the end, the narrator ultimately decides that the truth within is peace. The change of character can be seen when he said, “I thought I was going to cry”, because not many young men would declare to that, no matter what traumatic, emotional battle they are faced with. The youthful men in this story are torn between many violent passions and are confronted with mortality, and it is this that ultimately will get them through life’s struggles. Not only is this battle over an exploration of one’s self shown in the point of view and setting, it can be seen through the plot structure as well.
The narrator also shows his need to explore himself through the plot structure. From the beginning, the boys locate to the Lake, not necessarily in search of trouble, but in no way avoiding it. The narrator and his friends initially think their friend, Tony Lovett is parked down by the lake and begin to honk and act like fools, simply joking around, but come to find out that it was actually someone else. Driving the car was a “very bad character in greasy jeans and engineer boots”, as well as “man of action”, who did not take kindly to the boys childish antics. After a rough confrontation, the narrator grabs a tire iron and begins beating the man out of anger and frustration. The narrator quotes, “blood was beating in my ears, my hands were shaking, my heart turning over like a dirt bike in the wrong gear”(131) and “I came at him like a kamikaze, mindless, raging, stung with humiliation”. From the realization of anger and rage to the awareness of reality the narrator begins to envision himself handcuffed and behind bars for murder. Pushing the limits even further, the three begin to attack the screaming woman that was with the greasy character in attempt to silence her. They are stopped by approaching headlights and run off towards the lake in different directions. Soon each would find himself in his own individual way.
The setting, point of view and plot structure all show the theme of men, in need for self-exploration and limits that must be recognized. The story shows how three young men, come into conflict while simply looking for a good ole’ time, and pushing life’s limits a little too far. Fortunately the beaten man survived the brutal incident and retaliated against the narrator, by attacking his car. In the end, all three men recognize what is too far and rely on guided goals to help them choose the right path, and that is peace. The boys wish to forget the incident at hand and move on as successful men of society.