Violence in "Greasy Lake" and "The Things They Carried"

Topics: T. Coraghessan Boyle, Greasy Lake & Other Stories, Protagonist Pages: 3 (1015 words) Published: March 30, 2007
Both Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" and T. Coraghessan Boyle's "Greasy Lake" display characters' similar reactions to violence, but in different settings and circumstances. In "The Things They Carried," Fist Lieutenant Jimmy Cross is a soldier in the Vietnam War who finds solace and escape in fantasies of a young woman from home. One of Cross's soldiers dies due to his daydreaming and forces him to abandon these fantasies. In "Greasy Lake," the main character finds enjoyment in picking fights and breaking the law. A late night tussle leads to encounter with a dead body, causing the main character to reflect upon his wild lifestyle. Both stories show a coming to maturity through violence, though in different forms.

In "The Things They Carried," violence was a way of life forced upon First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. Cross, as a soldier in the Vietnam War, fights for his country, the safety of his fellow soldiers, and for his own survival. In describing the morale of himself and his soldiers Cross says, "it was just an endless march, village to village, without purpose, nothing was won or lost" (O'Brien 631). For Lieutenant Cross, violence becomes a job, a job he neither wants or needs.

The main character in "Greasy Lake" seeks out and embraces violence. For him, "bad" (Boyle 130) is a necessary persona portrayed by a total disregard for the rules laid down by society. The main character and his friends ride around drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, and looking for trouble, "On this, the third night, we'd cruised… been in every bar and club… and chucked two dozen raw eggs at mailboxes and hitchhikers" (Boyle 131). For him, violence is something sought and a needed for enjoyment.

In response to the violence which surrounds him, First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross allows himself to be engulfed in thoughts of another place with different people. Cross has a love by the name of Martha who he spends countless hours a day fantasizing about. Martha...

Cited: Boyle, T. Coraghessan. "Greasy Lake." An Introduction to Fiction. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and
Dana Gioia. New York: 2007. 130-137.
O 'Brien, Tim. "The Things They Carried." An Introduction to Fiction. Ed. X.J. Kennedy
and Dana Gioia. New York: 2007. 625-636.
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