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Coming of age is an appropriate theme for the short story "Greasy Lake," by T.Coraghesan Boyle.
Although violence and abuse occur in the short story, they are part of the overarching theme of coming of age. The protagonist who narrates the story changes from a young man unsure of his direction in life to a young man who is choosing a more mature path in his life.
The narrator, along with his two friends, decides to partake in a night of drinking, drugging, fighting, and sexual assault in an effort to investigate their “bad boy” inner selves. They were unsure of where they fit in, were they really bad boys? It was only natural for them to want to find out. The author writes,
We went up to the lake because everyone went there, because we wanted to snuff the rich sent of possibility on the breeze, watch a girl take off her clothes and plunge into the festering murk, drink beer, smoke pot, howl at the stars, savor the incongruous full-throated roar of rock and roll against the primeval susurrus of frogs and crickets. This was nature.
From this experience, in which the three boys faced death and debauchery, it becomes clear the narrator decides, that for himself, it is better to grow up, to act mature instead of going down the wrong path in life. He becomes concerned, not with fighting, drinking, and assault, but with developing an excuse to tell his parents about the condition of their car which he borrowed. He slips from boyhood, into what he perceived as manhood, and into young adulthood as he “scraped the recesses of my brain for some sort of excuse to give my parents—a tree had fallen on the car.”
Has he achieved full maturity or come of age? Not quite, but his though process has changed in that direction as he sees the finality of death, and the consequences of drinking, drugging, and the use of violence.
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