Seen as a parallel in Greasy Lake by T. Coraghessan Boyle, nature has a powerful way of portraying good vs. bad. The primary setting of “Greasy Lake” is Greasy Lake, a lake in the worst sort of ecological condition full of grime. Parlous individuals hover the area surrounding Greasy Lake and are noted for actions denoted by society; simply stated, Greasy Lake is an oasis, separating teens from everyday culture. Though most find pleasure, the narrator in Greasy Lake finds something different.
Instead of a regular night of drinking or smoking, the narrator finds a liberating truth that is inescapable.
Greasy Lake plays a major role throughout the story, mirroring the characters exactly. “Through the center of town…that was the way to Greasy Lake. The Indians had called it Wakan, a reference to the clarity of its waters. Now it was fetid and murky, the mud banks glittering with broken glass and strewn beer cans and the charred remains of bonfires.
” Just as Greasy Lake became corrupt over the years, so did the narrator and his friends. The fact that the lake is tainted signifies the vice that the young characters desire. Greasy Lake is anything but natural, and in fact, is a result of an environment wrecked by a further advancing society. Among throughout the story, “This was nature,” is stated several times indicating that doing drugs and partying at a “festering” lake is “nature.” The lack of natural elements influenced individuals to have difficulty detecting right from wrong.
It became “natural” for the characters to live in such a naturally destroyed environment; just the same, the deprived way of life for the characters was natural, also.
Through the use of setting as a symbol of corruption and sin, Boyle foreshadows leading up to the mistake of the narrator dropping his keys. “The first mistake, the one that opened the whole floodgate, was losing my grip on the keys.” The water imagery helps highlight the rebirth of the narrator and his friends who are symbolically saved. The fact that the lake water is murky and the narrator is metaphorically clean suggests to the reader that the narrator was worse off than the lake. Symbolically, the narrator is clean in the dirty waters of Greasy Lake. “I just looked at her. I thought I was going to cry. Digby broke the silence. “No, thanks,” he said, leaning over me. “Some other time.” Normally the narrator and his friends would have jumped at the chance to smoke and get high with two hot girls; however, being immersed in the perceived life of badness results in the narrator longing to go back to the safety of his cushioned life. Many were trying to love the life of badness; however, the narrator realizes the uncertainty associated with the floating corpse was not for him.
The narrator and his friends tried to appear rugged through poses when in reality, these efforts ended in vain. “It was early June, the third night of summer vacation. The first two nights we’d been out till dawn, looking for something we never found.” The boys float through the day acting carelessly and “not giving a shit about anything”- hoping that something exciting will come along. However, the search for “something” ends as the three youths find what is supposedly a friend’s car; instead, it is a belligerent boy who rushes at the narrator in anger. Without the boggy atmosphere of Greasy Lake, the characters would not have evolved from depraved nineteen-year-olds to young men. “I put the car in gear and it inched forward with a groan… there was a sheen of sun on the lake. I looked back. The girl was still standing there watching us, her shoulders slumped, hand outstretched.” Both the narrator and his companions felt a transformation within. Along went the stereotypical acts of rebelling teenagers: rubbish, viciousness, and decease. Finding the dead corpse in the gloomy water, along with the quarrel, gave the narrator and his friends a fresh perception of society.
Boyle creates a wild and uncertain atmosphere. In doing so, he gives the story more believability as the events become even more extreme. The setting of the lake is important because it is a society in adult rule where teens can experiment with impunity. It was good to be bad in the narrator’s society. The narrator is metaphorically baptized in the murky waters of Greasy Lake when he realizes that it is not the appearance of a person that makes them dangerous but rather the actions and behavior of how one acts in society.