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Greasy Lakes and Symbolism

By vladraz3 Jul 21, 2011 1014 Words
Greasy Lake”
Greasy lakes is an excellent yet outrageous story, due to the descriptions and comparisons that Tom Coraghessan Boyle throws at his readers. Its these mysterious descriptions and comparisons, that hold the key in identifying the hidden symbols in this story. Three major symbols are the name Greasy, the narrator gives the lake, the lake itself and how the narrator‘s filth reflects on the lake , and the mislaid car keys. These symbols played an immense part in the revelation of the narrorator “bad character”.

The Narrator opens up the story, talking about the nature of how being bad was good, and they live in a time “When you Cultivated Decadence like a taste” (Boyle, 125). The narrator and his two friends, Digby and Jeff, were on a joy rid to see what mischief they can find at Greasy Lake. It wasn’t always called Greasy Lake, but Wakan, by the Indian’s, due to the clarity of its water. Now it’s a murky garbage dump of unknown pungent smells, where possibilities were searchered for. This is were Boyle shows why the tile of this short story is called Greasy lake, it was a bad greasy place to hang out. It was full of broken bottles, charred remains, and emaciated vegetation. The lake was transformed into “Greasy Lake” because it was a hang out for bad characters, where they released their inner selves by drinking, smoke, burning fires, and not showing any consideration for the lake. It was a mystery of what transpired there, except to the people that turned the lake into its Greasy image.

After arriving at the lake the narrator and his friends pulled right behind, who they thought was Bobby, honk and flicked their high beams to interrupt his sexual pleasures. Unknown to them, a different greasy character emerged from the 1957 Chevy, but what they had done was too late to avoid. Who they though was Bobby, was a bad character who is able to take them all one on one. The narrator then exploded toward “Bobby” with a tire iron, brutally smashing it across hit face. They though he was dead, but why stop there, no one was around. They turned to “Bobby‘s” fox and turned their filth towards her, trying to forcefully penetrate her. The narrator and his friends knew what they were doing was morally wrong, but they kept at it. Suddenly a car came swinging into the parking lot, heading towards their way. They ran towards the lake hoping to hide their filth in the shadows, gunk, and filth the lake provided, while the narrator wishing he hadn’t lost the keys.

This scene is the second symbolic part for the narrators revelation. He’s realizing that all his actions lead him to where he’s at in life now. The Narrator accepts his actions and hides from his behavior and his new arrivals. He understands the way he was living life was shameful and disturbing, these thoughts came to him just as he was about to get caught in the act of the uncivilized rap. He couldn’t stand there and be accused for his unlawful actions. He hides himself in the depth of the enigmatic shadows and black shores of the lake, trenching deeper and deeper after hearing the incriminating screams. The submersion into the lake resembles a ritual baptism for the fear guilt and sins the narrator commit.

Stumbling into a sponge soaked carcass, the narrator realizes “I’m nineteen a mere child, and infant”, (Boyle, 129). He realizes he’s only a kid and shouldn’t be witnessing this whole ordeal. Still in mind the lost keys, the solution to his problems are still concealed by the darkness of the lakes vicinity. “ The Keys are his ticket to avoidance. With the keys in his possession , this episode will mean nothing; he may ignore any and all carcasses.” (Walker, 5) This is obviously understandable, but if the narrator didn’t fumbled the keys then growth and experience wouldn’t be learned from his recently degrading action. In turn the narrator would not go through an eye opening chance in his life, so loosing the keys were his salvation.

The third symbol is the keys, finally after “Bobby” and the blonde fraternity looking brothers were done demolishing the narrators car he emerged from the lake. When getting out of the water the setting establishes this for the readers “ from water to land, and from night to morning, parallels his passage from ignorance to knowledge, from chaos to order, from naivete to understanding.”(Walker,1) This passage from walker helps the reader see the end of the revelation, the change in the narrator.

After the sun starts creeping up the Narrator easily finds the keys, his holy grail. This completes his transformation this experience is learned.
Soon after two women came to Greasy Lake, and one approached the narrators car looking for Al (the dead corpse). The one girl noticed the narrator, Digby and jeff all seemed to be bad looking characters. She offers them drugs and to party, but not this time the declined the drugs and drove off. For what just occurred will change their lives forever.

So in conclusion we see three major symbols that Boyle hides in “Greasy Lake” that help the narrator and his friends change their view on how being bad isn’t the best thing in the world. We see what The lake was given the name “Greasy” because of its image. Loosing the keys were leading them to salvation and declining into the filth of the lake was a symbol of a ritual baptism.

Works Cited
Kennedy, X. J. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Dama, and Writing. 11th ed. Pearson. Print.

Walker, Michael. "Boyle's `Greasy Lake' and the moral failure of postmodernism." Studies in Short Fiction 31.2 (1994): 247. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 July 2011.

Vannatta, Dennis. “Greasy Lake.” Masterplots 11: Short Story Series, Revised Edition (2004): 1-3. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 7 July 2011.

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