An Analysis of the Setting in T. Coraghessan Boyle's Short Story Greasy Lake

What is “bad”? People associate abominable places with the word“bad” and enticing locations with the word “good”. If someone were to go to Disney World he or she would say it is a good place. But if that same someone were to go to a run down cabin in the woods he or she would say it was a bad place. The story “Greasy Lake” by T. Coraghessan Boyle takes place in Greasy Lake. The narrator of the story describes the lake as “fetid and murky, the mud banks glittering with broken glass and strewn with beer cans….

”. Just from this one sentence it is clear that the lake is a bad place. As the story progresses T. Coraghessan Boyle uses the setting of Greasy Lake to first give hints about the theme and then to reveal the theme in the end of story.

To begin, the setting is introduced with “It was 2:00 A.M; the bars were closing. There was nothing to do but take a bottle of lemon-flavored gin up to Greasy Lake”.

Right away the reader gets the impression that something unpleasant is going to go down. Boyle uses the setting to foreshadow the theme will have something to do with being bad. He demonstrates that Greasy Lake is a place that rowdy teenagers would go to. With rowdy tennagers comes trouble. Boyle allows the reader to infer the theme of the story before it goes in depth. Boyle also includes other text that leads to a cautious attitude about Greasy Lake.

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“On the far side of the lot, like the exoskeleton of some gaut chrome insect, a chopper leaned against its kickstand. And that was it for excitement: some junkie halfwit biker and a car freak pumping his girlfriend.” Greasy Lake being a bad place is reinforced and the theme of “bad” is forming shape.

In addition, Boyle also uses events that happen at the setting to suggest that the theme of the story is something about being bad. The narrator gets into a fight with a “bad greasy character” after disturbing him and his girlfriend. “The first lusty Rockette kick of his steel-toed boot caught me under the chin…” Later the narrator and his friends try to rape the girlfriend. “We were on her like Bergman’s deranged brothers- see no evil, hear none, speak none-panting, wheezing, tearing at her clothes, grabbing for flesh. The events that take place at Greasy Lake intensifies the theme of “bad” as the reader finds out that being bad is no longer looking cool and defending oneself, a courageous and dignified attribute. Now “bad” is preying on girls. Boyle uses the setting to show two of the three aspects of the theme so far. First he plays around with “bad” and makes it look cool. “There was a time when chivalry and winning ways went out of style, when it was good to be bad..” Then Boyle uses the events that happen at the setting to suggest that being “bad” can get out of hand.

Finally, Boyle uses the setting of Greasy Lake to completely reveal the theme. After the narrator and his friends run away with the arrival of the “greasy bad characters” reinforcements, the narrator ends up in the lake. “I was breathing in small gasps and sobs… (I was nineteen, a mere child, an infant, and here in the space of five minutes I had struck down one greasy character and into the waterlogged carcass of another”. The narrator who is in the water trying to hide from his enemies encounters a dead body in the lake. Later the narrator pops out of the water and sees his opponents wrecking his car. “There was no windshield, the headlights were staved in, and the body looked as if it had been sledge-hammered for a quarter a shoot at the county fair..”. In this part of the story Boyle brings out the miserable features of the setting. The dead man in the lake, and pieces of the car on the ground help to finally establish the theme. Being “bad” is just not worth it.

In conclusion, Boyle uses foreshadowing of the setting, events that take place at the setting, and descriptions of Greasy Lake to portray the theme that being “Bad” or acting like the narrator does in the story is not worth the attention and self confidence. The setting shows that the theme has something to do with “bad” and finally reveals that one should act like the way the narrator does in the story.

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An Analysis of the Setting in T. Coraghessan Boyle's Short Story Greasy Lake. (2022, May 14). Retrieved from

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