What are the most important allusions in the story "Greasy Lake"? What types of allusions are they (mythological, historical, etc.) and how are they relevant to the story? 

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One place to start would be with the epigram, a quote from Bruce Springsteen's song "Spirit in the Night," in which another Greasy Lake features. The allusion is important in many ways. Springsteen's work evokes a particular kind of restless male energy, sexual or otherwise. The song talks about the lake as the place "where the gypsy angels go," or a kind of magic place of sexual initiation and freedom. I guess this can be thought of as a mythological allusion, but really Springsteen is talking about the search for a kind of transcendent experience, an escape that is fueled by drugs and sex.

The story stands in contrast to the lake in the song. Far from being an escape into a world of "gypsy angels," the trip to the lake for the boys is a journey into primal fear and what we call these days "toxic masculinity."

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The story makes many allusions to popular culture of the 1960s—allusions that may be lost on us today. For example, the narrator likens losing his car keys to General Westmoreland's "tactical error" to "dig in Khe Sanh." This an allusion to the general's misguided response during the Viet Nam war to an attack by the Viet Cong. The general here contributed to the rising distress over the war by sacrificing American troops to defend territory of little tactical importance. This allusion is important because it provides a contrast between the frivolous, if dangerous, adventure of these college students living cushy lives at their parents' expense and the real dangers encountered by other men their age on the other side of the world. While the allusion is lighthearted, self-depreciating, and hyperbolic, the narrator may also sense an acute need to prove his manhood because he is not participating in the war.

The narrator also makes reference to The Rockettes when one of the "bad greasy" guys kicks him in the chin with a steel-toed boot and also chips one of his teeth in the process. This is an allusion meant to emasculate this "greasy" man by comparing him to a dancer in a popular chorus line that performed at Radio City music hall in New York.

These allusions, working together, show that the narrator is very aware of popular culture. He also is trying to make his own actions look more important and diminish his very threatening opponents. As you read through, you will be able to find many more allusions to 1960s culture.

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The most obvious allusions are to the Bible.  One of the allusions is related to baptism.  When the narrator flees and runs into the murky lake, he is, in effect, being baptised...his filthy character is now baptised in the filthy lake. Also, his "baptism" causes him to have an epiphany about his and his friends' behaviors.  The narrator realizes that he is not as "bad" as he thought he was, if "bad" at all! 

Another allusion to the bible is the narrator's car key.  When he finds it, it is referred to as the "grail" and it is the narrator's salvation in many ways. When the sun breaks at dawn, the narrator finds it gleaming in the same spot where he dropped it.  The key represents the narrator's escape (and his friends' escape) from the horrible night they've endured.  Now that the narrator has found the key, he and his friends can finally leave.

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