"Greasy Lake" and Its Many Historical References

Topics: T. Coraghessan Boyle, Greasy Lake & Other Stories, John Updike Pages: 4 (1584 words) Published: December 9, 2009
“Greasy Lake” and its Many Historical References
In T. Coraghessan Boyle’s short story “Greasy Lake,” there are many subtle historical references. These references pertain to different events that were happening during the time period that the story takes place, and help to describe different parts of the plot. Casual readers may not even notice these interesting little bits of information, but upon paying closer attention; they would become aware of the small, almost unnecessary references that make this story so fascinating. T. C. Boyle uses many military and political terms from the Vietnam War to describe events in the story. In “Greasy Lake,” T.C. Boyle describes the mistake that worsened the situation ten fold: The first mistake, the one that opened the whole floodgate, was losing my grip on the keys. In the excitement, leaping from the car with the gin in one hand and a roach clip in the other, I spilled them in the grass – in the dark, rank, mysterious nighttime of Greasy Lake. This was a tactical error, as damaging and irreversible in its way as Westmoreland’s decision to dig in at Khe Sanh. (145) The battle of Khe Sanh was a well known blunder during the Vietnam War. General William C. Westmoreland was a commander of US troops in Vietnam who made the decision to send troops into Khe Sanh. He soon realized that this was a very bad idea when he and “6,000 Marines ... were surrounded by 20,000 North Vietnamese troops.” (Brush) This parallels the story because if the narrator had not lost his keys, the boys probably would not have ended up in a fight in the first place. They probably would have escaped without injury.

Another military term used in the story is kamikaze. Boyle uses this term to describe the intensity of the attack that the narrator made upon his enemy:
Digby poked the flat of his hand in the bad character’s face and I came at him like a kamikaze, mindless, raging, stung with humiliation -- the whole thing from the initial...
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