Literary Analysis Essay on Greasy Lake by T. Coraghessan Boyle

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Harvey Mudd College
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The story illustrates the struggles of identity that three young men are experiencing to fit in the society or rather find their place in the society. They can be perceived to be in transition from childhood to maturity by which they shift from innocence to life experience in regards to their social lives. They associate themselves with heroes found in films and books whereby they identify with them. The association makes them place themselves in Greasy Lake, a place that can be perceived to be their baptismal. The narrator, who is unnamed, mentions aspects of drug abuse, disobedience, drunk driving, and engaging in arrogant behavior.

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What Is the Central Idea Behind Greasy Lake?

At the beginning of the narration, the narrator appears to be mischievous, proud, and of bad character. His friends and he appear to lead stress-free lives by which they do not adhere to societal norms and spend most of their term bad. The narrator illustrates a situation by which the boys kept themselves busy being bad such that most of the nights they spent away from their homes. He states “The first two nights we have been out till dawn, looking for something we never found. On this, the third night, we cruised the strip sixty-seven times, being in and out of every bar and club we could think of in a twenty-mile radius” (Boyle 688). However, at the end of the narration, the narrator appears to be a young man who is in need of a good home and affection instead of being bad. The baptism at the Greasy Lake that takes place after the boys engage in a fight with one of the residents and comes across a corpse makes the boy think twice about their behavior. They even refuse to take drugs being offered by some girls they met while leaving Greasy Lake.

This was nature referred to the Greasy Lake by which the narrator explains that it was quite popular to the locals and that his friends and he headed there to snuff the rich scent of possibility on the breeze, watch a girl take off her clothes, and plunge into the festering murk (Boyle 688). Therefore, at the beginning of the story, the lake was a place that the boys could spend their time while engaging in their bad activities. However, at the end of the story, the lake was no longer a place for evening relaxation but dawn to another direction of life. The narrator describes the dawn as he picks himself up from the mud and looks at his car that was a wreck.

The distance in the story whereby the narrator uses past tense presents a reflective nature of the story. A reader is able to reflect with the expectation on how the story will end. If the story was written using the present tense, it would present the immediacy of events by which the narrator presents the story as it takes place while in the past tense, the narrator retells a story to the audience. A story presented in past tense tends to be more realistic when compared to a story illustrating events as they occur.


Both the narrators in Greasy Lake and An Ounce of Cure are not named and both present stories in the first person. Both stories mention the aspect of drug abuse among teenagers that lead to their individual transformation. Both characters are also transitioning to maturity. The difference between the narrators is a gender by which the former is a boy and the latter a girl. While the character in the former rejuvenates after experiencing a fight and coming across a corpse, the latter changes after a bad experience after taking alcohol for the first time (Munro 159).

Work Cited

Boyle, T.C. Greasy Lake. New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 1986. Print.

Munro, Alice. An Ounce of Cure. Manchester: Manchester Publishing Group, 1986. Print.

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