T Coraghessan Boyle’s Story of Rebellion During the Vietnam as Illustrated in Greasy Lake

Greasy Lake, written by T. Coraghessan Boyle, depicts the fear, violence, and salvation three rebellious young adults go though during a nasty fight caused by mistakes. This is written as a response to Vietnam. Mistakes leads to a nasty fight by the United States and Vietnam. Our soldiers go through many emotions and states, including fear, violence, and finally salvation if whey return home. The narrator, Digby, and Jeff go to their usual after-hours party spot only to mistaken a friend for a stranger doing the dirty with a female. As with the United States leaving Vietnam, the three boys run for cover as they drop the big guy and his friends arrive.

After a night of clubbing and intoxication, the narrator, along with Digby and Jeff, roll up on a stranger mistaken as a friend who is in the process of intercourse with his lady. The narrator loses his keys as the group mistakes the stranger for his friend. After the rude interruption, the huge fellow leaps out of the car to handle his business. The narrator realizes that the keys are their only answer, writing, “the lost ignition key was my grail and my salvation” (146). While looking for the keys, things go bad, as the narrator writes, “The first lusty Rockette kick of his steel-towed boot caught me under the chin, chipped my favorite tooth, and left me sprawled in the dirt” (146). This is the initiation process. The three young adults use their fear to fuel regression that leads to violence.

The narrator, Didgy and Jeff are just as, if not more, guilty than the guy they fight. The fear is temporarily relieved as “Didgy vaulted the kissing bumpers and delivered a savage kungfu blow to the greasy character’s collarbone” (146). Sadly, this doesn’t do much and Didgy gets knocked out. It’s not until the narrator takes the tire iron to the man’s head do things get serious. The intoxicated trio believe the man is dead .To make things worse, the intoxicated trio tries to rape the man’s lady but are chased off as the big guy’s friends arrive. Panic leads to all this violence. This is a classical allusion to Vietnam. Our Government sends a bunch of young, scared soldiers into Vietnam to fight people willing to die for their cause. It’s clearly a mistake, as our Government admits. This panic that caused both the three young adults to fight and our country to fight is childhood behavior, as David Friedman writes, “The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations”


The narrator, Didgy and Jeff run off into the woods instinctively, with thoughts of cops, police, and jail in their minds. The narrator hides in waist deep water in Greasy Lake and finds a floating dead body. Then, suddenly, he hears the words “Motherfucker!” and is as happy as ever. The narrator writes,

I recognized the verbal virtuosity of the bad greasy character in the engineer boots. Tooth chipped, sneakers gone, coated in mud and slime and worse, crouching breathless in the weeds, waiting to have my ass thoroughly and definitively kicked and fresh from the hideous stinking embrace of a three-days-dead-corpse, I suddenly felt a rush of joy and vindication: the son of a bitch was alive! (149).

The scared, intoxicated trio wait in the woods and hear the smashing of the narrator’s car when suddenly, within five seconds, the parking lot is clear and everybody leaves. The narrator emerges from the woods during sunrise to find a great surprise.

Digby and Jeff also return to the car that the narrator is now encircling. As tore up as the car is, Digby says, “At least they didn’t slash the tires” (150). The car is drivable! The narrator reaches into his pocket only to remember he forgot his keys. As if a diamond, the narrator’s keys were sparkling five feet away from the car. The now tired, sober trio get in the car and as salvation approaches, a Mustang pulls into the parking lot and two girls get out. The girls are looking for “Al,” the guy that the narrator almost killed hours ago. The narrator writes, “We looked at her like zombies, like war veterans, like deaf-and-dumb pencil peddlers” (151). However, the zombies deny seeing anybody. What happens next makes the narrator want to cry. One of the girls pulls out a handful of pills and asks the three young adults if they want to party. They politely refuse the offer and drive away. Finally, it is over.

This is the story of three rebellious young adults who become violent from the heat and panic of the moment. These young adults are getting high, drunk, and want to relax at their spot, Greasy Lake. They mistake a stranger for a friend and interrupt his fortification session with a girl. What happens next is the allusion to Vietnam that the author makes. Out of panic, the intoxicated trio and the grumpy fornicator begin a fight. The United States mistakenly fights Vietnam. The fear creates regression for the soldiers involved. The violence they see in Vietnam is appalling. Some receive no salvation. Some do. The keys to the car is the salvation the young men seek. A trip home is the salvation the soldiers seek. Sadly, even though the young men may have learned their lesson, it seems like the United States’ involvement in Iraq shows history may repeat itself.

Source by Gregory Akerman