Greasy Lake is a story about a rebellious young man, who lives a life he loves. He learns the truth and the results of living the “bad life”. The story ends with him being broken down by his actions.
Boyle’s character and two of his friends have a “we give a sh*t about nothing” attitude. The main character in the story is a teenager who has been influenced by drugs, alcohol and peer pressure. He also enjoys the freedom of summer vacation. The main character is a nineteen year old girl who is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and the freedom that comes with summer break.
They went to Greasy Lake because everyone else did. They wanted to enjoy cheap thrills and have fun. “Sniffing the scents of possibilities, watching a girl remove her clothes, drinking beer, smoking pot, and listening to the incongruous full roar of rock’n’roll against the primval susurrus sounds of frogs or crickets…This, is nature,” (Boyle) (1233).
His friends are influential in his decisions and will always support him no matter how bad the decision is. Digby, Digby’s father and Jeff were all described as “dangerous” characters. Jeff even considered quitting school to be a painter/musician/head shop proprietor. After the protagonist and his buddies had eaten as much food as possible, harassed a few hitchhikers, vandalized some property and made their rounds to all of the closing bars they decided to head down towards Greasy Lake. This is their final visit for the evening, so it’s only natural that they try to embarrass Tony Lovett. They realize that it’s a “bad person in greasy denim and engineer boot” (Boyle 1204), not Lovett.
Then he thinks about his poor decision, where before he hadn’t given it a second thought. He remembers that he dropped his keys as he was jumping out of his car. Then a blue Chevy jumped into his mind and he thought it was Tony Lovett. He now understands that the character who jumped out of the car wasn’t nice. The protagonist, after being kicked by the bad guy in the blue Chevy and ending up in the dirt, becomes more nonchalant. He is thinking about his bad situation. He knocked the man out with a single swing of the tire iron that he kept in his car.
As he stares at him, he realizes that he’s done something wrong. He was thinking of “headlines, pitted-faced police inquisitors…the gleam of handcuffs…the clank of bars…the big black silhouettes rising up from the backs of the cells …”.” (Boyle 1235) All the while, the main protagonist thinks he’s murdered this guy. After he was sentenced to jail for a murder and an attempt at rape in the past, he began to see himself differently from other people. It’s no longer a virtue to be bad. The teenagers flee into the forest to escape the situation and everything that has just occurred. The protagonist runs, “imagining bloodhounds and cops” searching the muddy water for him. (Boyle, 1236). He runs into the corpse and becomes horrified. The corpse represents the bad that he has done, and now he is regretting his actions.
After seeing the corpse and thinking he had killed the greasy figure in the engineer boot, he says: “I was only nineteen years old, a child. I had blundered in to the waterlogged carcass a second greasy creature” (Boyle, 1236). The greasy person he hit with the iron tire and the blondies pulled up by the attempted rape have pulverized her bel-air.
After the story ends, the protagonist changes his view of life. He is not as tolerant of bad lives now that he has seen the result. The protagonist has emerged from the muddy water. This line represents the protagonist’s mental change from darkness to light.
Digby tells the protagonist that they “didn’t slash any tires”. (Boyle1238) Ironically, although the protagonist rebelled, the tires that were set up to regulations saved him from a bad situation. By the end of this story, our protagonist is a broken man, who sympathizes with the druggie and the man dead in the water. He’s also contrite about his stupidity in wanting to do bad things.