Setting and Characterization in "Greasy Lake"
The path to becoming an adult is lined with a variety of childhood and adolescent experiences, some more painful than others. In T. Coraghessen Boyle's short story, "Greasy Lake," Boyle masterfully uses the setting and the protagonist's experience to teach us an old but vital lesson: those who choose not to learn and grow from their past mistakes are destined to repeat them, and thus will never mature and realize their true potential.
In the beginning, the main character (also the narrator) depicts his adolescence as "a time when courtesy [...] went out of style, when it was good to be bad, when you cultivated decadence like a taste" (129). The three thought of themselves as dangerous characters, and would try to consume anything they could get their hands on, from glue and ether, to "what somebody claimed was cocaine" (129).
However, it seems unclear to the main character and his two friends that they are not actually bad characters, in reality. Really bad characters do not drive their "parents' whining station wagons" (129) or read intellectual French novels by Andre Gide. Boyle instills a general thought that these three boys are just your ordinary, everyday, misguided juvenile delinquents with an unclear view of what it really means to be a man.
Thereafter, the boys drive up to the main setting of Greasy Lake, and provoke who is described as a "very bad character" (130). The subsequent events that took place led the boys to a realization that each of them was nothing more than just three kids on an adventure for the night; little did they know what lay in store for them. An exciting brawl ensues, and Boyle expresses the thrill of the resulting fight splendidly.