Language, Tone, and Style in Boyle's "Greasy Lake"

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“Greasy Lake,” by T. Coraghessan Boyle, is the coming of age tale of three young “tough guys” who discover the real meaning of tough in the visceral forms of violence and mortality. In an ill-fated party trip to Greasy Lake, the boys inadvertently attract the enraged attention of a true-to-life tough guy, and in the ensuing fight the narrator strikes down the older, stronger, man. The boys, pumping with adrenaline, attack the unconscious man’s date in a serendipitously aborted rape attempt, then flee to the woods and into the lake itself for safety from reprisal. In the course of the escape, the protagonist undergoes a series of psychological shocks, effectively beginning his transformation into an adult. The boys set themselves against middle class society, posing as “dangerous characters” (Boyle 77), and costuming themselves in “torn-up leather jackets,…[while striking] elaborate poses to show that [they] didn’t give a shit about anything” (Boyle 77). They live in a time when rock and roll is king and youthful rebellion is expected by their peers. “We were all dangerous characters then,” (Boyle 77) declares the narrator; pointing to the elaborate facades the boys wear to prove their manhood. The narrator and his friends are on the cusp of adulthood at nineteen, and live in the struggle for adult freedoms and pleasures, yet still retain the needs and mental habits of children. They drive their parents cars while cruising for chicks and drinking cheap booze. They, in the preoccupation with cultivating a bad boy image, desperately desire to outgrow what they consider weakness, but is in fact, their own humanity, and their only hope for achieving adulthood. In the horrible experiences at Greasy Lake, the antagonist is pitted against the lake in physical struggles to navigate the muck and vegetation of the semi-wilderness, and struggles in the psychological sense

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