The dual point of view is crucial to the story’s theme, but it is also the most important technical feature, and T. Coraghessan Boyle wields the dual perspective to interesting effects, especially in tone and imagery. In fact, the careful reader will note how often the tone and imagery seem to break into contrasting halves, mirroring the contrasting levels of understanding exhibited by the older narrator and his younger self.
It is the narrator as a nineteen-year-old, for example, who considers his friend Digby a “dangerous character” and who is impressed by the gold star Digby wears in his right ear; the older narrator, however, notes ironically that this dangerous Digby “allowed his father to pay his tuition at Cornell.” The boy thinks that it will be a great joke to “razz” their friend in the Chevy; the older narrator casts all this in an ironic light, reflected in his inflated rhetoric, when he speculates that after the joke the friends will “go on to new heights of adventure and daring.” The reader would do well, in fact, to remember the difference between “atmosphere” and “tone” throughout the story. “Atmosphere” is the mood evoked by setting and events. “Tone” is the author’s (narrator’s) perceived attitude toward the story. These may be nearly identical or greatly at variance—the latter in “Greasy Lake.”
The dichotomy between tone and atmosphere is supported by contrasting images—between...
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