Explain how the various elements of the plot in Boyle’s “Greasy Lake” progress the story

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Within the framework of a short story, foreshadowing in the exposition hints at action, but it is, especially, the rising action, climax, and resulting falling action that progress the narrative.

  • Exposition

Certainly, the foreshadowing in Boyle's "Greasy Lake" suggests that there will be action:

We were bad. We read Andrea Gide [French critic and novelist who wrote of the conflict between discipline and desire], and struck elaborate poses to show we didn't give a shit about anything. At night we went to Greasy Lake.

  • Rising Action

The narrator states that he and his friends drive up to Greasy Lake for the "possibilities" of seeing girls remove their clothes and go into the murky water, smoke pot, drink beer, and savor the "incongruous full-throated roar of rock and roll." On the third day of summer vacation, after driving around and eating hamburgers and chicken, the boys decide to drive the narrator's Chevy Bel-Air up to Greasy Lack in order to drink some lemon-flavored gin.

There they spot a parked car and a motorcycle. The narrator, Jeff, and Digby jump out of the Bel-Air in order to tease the driver of a mint, metallic blue '57 Chevy, who is obviously parked with a girlfriend. But, the "first mistake that opened the floodgate was losing my grip on the keys." The other mistake that is made by the three boys is not recognizing the car correctly; they think it belongs to someone they know, Tony Lovett. Digby and Jeff realize this, too, but it is too late. A large "greasy character" kicks open the car door and immediately kicks the narrator, who searches in the grass for his keys. The other two engage in the fight, but the only reason they beat the greasy character is the fact that he is outnumbered. After the narrator takes him down with a tire iron, the three attempt to rape the girlfriend who charges out of the '57 Chevy.

We were bad characters and we were scared and hot and three steps over the line--anything could have happened.

But, at this point another car pulls up.

  • Climax

The boys bolt. The narrator runs into Greasy Lake and hears the sobs of the girl whom they have thrown against the hood of the car in their animal lust. Breathing in sobs and gasps, the narrator finds himself amid sludge and debris-and something that feels like flesh: "In one of those nasty little epiphanies we are prepared for in films and childhood," he realizes that he touches a dead body. Terrified by this discovery, the narrator trudges through the muck, slips and falls face first into the "buoyant black mess"; then, he shoots up and screams. The others who have arrived to defend their greasy friend hear him. They call out, the bad greasy character challenging them. Relieved that this character is alive, the narrator holds his breath, but feels a rock thrown at him.

Then, the "fraternity boys" who have come in a Trans Am decide to destroy the narrator's mother's Bel-Air, breaking windows and denting the body. After five seconds, they are finished; tires squeal as they whisk away.

  • Falling Action

Emerging from the water the narrator ponders the death of the man in the lake: probably a bad drug deal. "Another headline. My car was wrecked. A man was dead." He circles his car assessing the damage; his two friends emerge, and Digby notes, "At least they didn't slash the tires." All three brush away the glass and the narrator finds his lost keys. Just as they are ready to depart, a Mustang pulls up with two girls who stagger out and one calls, "Al." Digby urges the narrator to "get out of here," but the the second one approaches the car and asks if they have seen Al. As Digby pokes him in the ribs, the narrator lies, "We haven't seen anybody." She accepts this, and says, "No matter. He'll show up." Then, she holds out her hands full of pills, asking if they want to party with her and her friend.

  • Resolution

Digby replies, "Some other time, and the boys pull away, leaving her standing with outstretched arms.

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