Greasy Lake by T Coraghenssan Boyle is a short story about three male teenagers from suburban families that try their hand in the life of being bad and macho men. The young men are influenced by the cultural revolution that was going on in the United States during 1960s that created an impression that an ideal man is one who is bad, aggressive, irrational and masculine. The mass media played a major role in influencing the teenagers to put on the mask of being bad. The mass media through movies and television programs had created an impression that being bad is cool. Protagonists in most of the movies that the three teenagers were watching suggested that being bad is being cool. As a result, the three teenagers decided to venture into the real world and try to live lives of bad people as depicted in mass media. On their first night out as bad people,' the teenagers wear leather jackets and dark sunglasses as it was often the case for movie characters who were considered bad and cool. However, experiences that the teenagers go through during that night make them reconsider if they truly want to live the bad and cool life. The essay argues that the boys in the short story were not that bad as they were portrayed.
The boys were not bad because they were brought up in a life of privilege. Most people become bad to the extent of committing felonies because of being brought up in hapless circumstances where they lack even basic needs. On the other hand, the boys are from suburbia families, and as a matter of fact, they attend a prestigious high school where their parents pay their school fees. The boys try to act bad because they find their life of luxury and security as boring. The boys night out, trying to act bad compels them to rethink if they want to abandon their life of luxury to that of being bad. The boys get confused when they realize that the life of being bad is not that easy as they comprehended. The boys experiences during their night out give them a real picture of what a life of badness is. On their night out, the boys spot a car that they think belongs to their friend, with an intention of harassing him. To their surprise, the car contains a man that they do not know and his girl. The lads harass the man; the man is angered by the harassment and gets out of the car with an intention to confront the boys. A fight ensues between the man and the boys to a point where one of the boys hits the man with an iron object. In a few minutes time, the boys notice a car approaching, out of fear, the boys run away. If the boys were truly bad people, they would not have run away from the approaching car. The boys would have stayed put and confronted occupants of the approaching car. As a matter of fact, the boys lost their car keys as they ran away from the approaching car. Given that the boys lost their car keys while running away from the approaching car, it can de deduce that the boys were very fearful.
The lads are shocked about the horrid nature of a real bad life, and as a result, they make up their mind that it is better to continue living their suburbia life that is full of luxury rather than trying to be bad on a quest to being cool. On their night out, the boys come across a corpse in the greasy waters of the Greasy Lake. Never in their lives had the boys seen a corpse in a different place other than in a morgue or a casket. The boys are afraid of the corpse to the extent that some of them think that the corpse may come back to life and haunt them. While out of hiding, from the approaching car, the boys had run and left behind their car. On coming back from their hiding, the boys find their car severely damaged. As the boys search for their car keys, a car with two women approaches them. The women ask the boys if they would mind having a party. Partying in this context refers to engaging in debaucheries with the women, the women are prostitutes. The boys are shy because they are sexually inexperienced and the request from the two women leaves them tongue tied. If the boys were truly bad, they would have been sexually experienced, and as a result, they would have accepted the offer from the two women. The boys leave the Greasy Lake, crestfallen, with a beat up car, feeling like losers because they had not achieved what they had gone out to pursue. As a matter of the fact, the boys feel timid, and their rebellious spirit is completely thwarted.
The boys try to act bad not because they are bad, but they act bad because they have been influenced by the mass media to believe that being bad is cool. The boys live in a society that is undergoing intense Cultural Revolution where bad people are glorified in movies and mass media. To fit in a society where the society is undergoing profound Cultural Revolution, the boys try to act bad. The boys decide to go out one night to look for trouble so that they can live up to their expectations of being bad people. The boys live at a time where it feels good to be bad. It is revealed that the three boys are rebels without a cause because they do not live up to their intentions of being bad.
The boys realize that the perception of bad as fuelled by mass media is different from a real experience of being bad. During their night out, the boys encounter bad experiences that make them think twice if they truly want to live a life of being bad people. The boys had developed their idea of badness from movie characters. The lads realize that the reality of being bad is not that cool as portrayed by the mass media. The teenagers had developed affectations that they thought they were supposed to exhibit so that they could be considered as bad. The badness that the teenagers profoundly desire is elusive; it cannot be found in real life. In real life, bad people are not cool. As a matter of fact, in real life, bad people are sad, disturbed and have no peace in their lives. From their bad experiences on their night out, the teenagers discover that their lives are far much better than the perceived bad life.
Boyle, T C. T.c. Boyle Stories: The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle. New York: Penguin Books, 1999. Print.
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