Who is the central character in "Greasy Lake" by T.C. Boyle? Explain what happens to him in the story?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 “Greasy Lake” by  T. C. Boyle  has  an unnamed narrator as the protagonist.  The narrator/protagonist has just finished his first year of college, and this is the third day of summer break. 

The story is told in the first person; however, the story uses a flashback approach.  The narrator looks back at the incident in the story and assures the reader that he has learned a hard lesson. It is unclear how much time has passed since the event took place. 

The narrator and his friends are looking for a good time and some mischief.  They have been driving up and down [sixty-seven times] the main drag of their hometown, but nothing seems to be happening. 

The boys consider themselves “bad” because of their fashion statements---leather jackets, toothpicks in their mouths---and they are sniffing glue and cocaine.

They are looking for a fight and count on using a tire iron which they keep nearby. Acting out their “bad” fantasies leads to a terrible fight, an attempted murder, an almost rape, and a dead body. 

The narrator explains the mistakes the boys make during the night after the friends decide to go to Greasy Lake, which was a teenage hang out. 

1st –practical joke…catch their friend making out with his girlfriend,  but flash light at wrong car

2nd---Wrong car---a large angry man comes to their car and fights with the boys… finally, the narrator hits the big guy with the tire iron.

“I was nineteen, a mere child, an infant, and here in the space of five minutes I’d struck down one greasy character and blundered into the waterlogged carcass of a second.”

He thinks that he has killed the big guy. The narrator loses the car keys, so the boys cannot run away.

3rd---Wrong girl---the boys lose their collective minds and decide to gang rape the guy’s girl

4th ---Another car---another car shows up and the boys scatter

5th---Another body---the narrator runs into Greasy Lake and stumbles over a dead body

6th---Wrecked car---while the boys are scattered, the people on the beach tear up the narrator’s car.  The only things left intact are the tires.

7th---Everyone leaves

8th---In the morning---the boys come out and go to the car.  They find the keys and are ready to leave.

9th---The new girls---two girls drive up and they are using dope. They offer to party with the boys

10th ---Learned their lessons---The boys are so glad to have made it through the last night that they just want to get out of there.

After their adventure, the boys realize that they are really not “bad characters.” They seem to feel ashamed at their behavior of almost killing someone and almost raping another.

The narrator especially realizes that they are innocents who need to stay away from any bad characters.  His commentary about the natural world and the early morning beauty assures the reader that this is a boy who will stay out of trouble.