How "bad" are the three boys in "Greasy Lake"?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Deciding whether or not the three young men who cruised Greasy Lake looking for trouble are "bad" and how bad they are depends on how one defines bad. I will argue that while the young men are not evil and not even as bad as Bobby, the man they have a run-in with, they still behave very badly. I will define bad as engaging in behaviors that are harmful to other people.

The three nineteen-year-olds get themselves into trouble by mistaking Bobby's car for a friend's and trying to interfere with what they think is a love tryst. They pick the wrong car and Bobby comes after them in his steel-tipped boots. Here the narrator steps over a line when he hits Bobby over the head with a tire iron—a blow that could have killed him.

The second harmful behavior the narrator, and in fact all three men, engage in is the attempted rape of Bobby's girlfriend while Bobby is out cold. They are interrupted at the last minute, but the text leaves little doubt that they would have gone through with it. 

Bobby survives and helps demolish the narrator's car. The girl is not raped, but the three men did engage in behaviors that were violent and potentially very damaging to the people they attacked. While the narrator feels remorse, especially as he reflects back, it would be a mistake to gloss over his behavior as nothing more than youthful hijinks.