The Days of Our Youth
In Greasy Lake, T. C Boyle wrote on the shifting of young boys to responsible men swiftly in one night. On this particular night they looked bad straight in the eyes and got away with it. The only thing on these young teenagers mind was how to finish off the night. Wit no idea how the real world works, driving mom’s car using dad’s money, they stumble upon an event that would forever change them. Boyle used the theme of being bad by using the different characters to symbolize someone always trying to be more than they really are.
When what really is exposed the need for growth and humility. Courage can be taken out of context, and when speaking of determined adolescents courage can be the difference between a sob story and the smell of sweet victory. The main character of Greasy Lake really didn’t have a choice of a sob story. They expected to, “Slap backs with a red-faced Tony, roughhouse a little”, When all of a sudden a huge mistake is made over identifying his friends 57 Chevy.
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One of my favorite quotes from the short story is, “There was no reasoning with this bad greasy character -clearly he was a man of action. ” This is where manhood is established in any rites of passage. Being a man of action is what separates the weak from the strong in this world. I was once told that a man who chooses not to reason will perish in the act, choose not to act and perish for that reason. On this murky calm night the world presented itself to these young men as a time to act upon what is in motion.
There was no time to hesitate and no room for fear, for the latter is a mind killer. Fear is what must leave the body to become an adult. When faced with an angry hoodlum, each character played a roll in getting their tails back home. There is something about a fight that defines a man’s potential. I don’t believe it’s the result of the fight, whether you lost and can show the proof or you gave a good whipping, but the manner in which the fight is carried.
For instance, if the hoodlum would’ve been knocked down by a vicious punch early in the fight and the unnamed main character and his pals repeatedly stomped at his unconscious body that would’ve been detrimental to their future. Being a gentleman is comparable to a guardian who looks out for those who cannot themselves. The gestures that are made in the story produce a sensation that whatever the boys did, they thought was fair. Fights aren’t always fair, and rarely end how they did in Greasy Lake. I ponder if these youngsters actually felt accomplished after their wild night out on the lake.
When looking at his mother’s car with dents in all, was there a feeling of triumph? Be there ever a moment so stale? The arrival of promiscuous woman had no effect, for these young lads had had enough of the wild side. They were lucky enough to get away with minor scraps and cold, wet clothes. Their innocence had long left them, because after this night if danger looks them in the eye they just might choose to reason. That is true manliness fidelity, to choose to live or the option to situate things accordingly.
After the glorious night Boyle wrote on these children, I predict that not only will there be a change in definition on what is “bad”, but also a new respect for discretion. Discretion was needed in this story because the car would have never been tampered with in the first place. Prudence represents the respect of others space, choices, and beliefs which I believe the boys lacked in their quest for trouble. Their mission to stir up a problem corresponds to a deep yearning need for structure, altruism, and maturity. A good scare was all that was needed to show these boys what bad brings.