Greasy Lake

by

T. Coraghessan Boyle

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Cars Symbol Icon

The narrator, Jeff, and Digby are obsessed with cars and the freedom and danger they represent, but the narrator is stuck driving his mother’s (presumably clunky) Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon while the people the boys encounter at Greasy Lake drive much cooler cars. T.C. Boyle describes each car that appears in the story with meticulous specificity and glittering prose, asking the readers to pay attention to the vehicle’s characteristics, since the cars speak volumes about the characters associated with them. The narrator, as mentioned, drives his mother’s lame station wagon; the Bad Character drives an older, cooler ’57 Chevy that is “metallic blue” and in “mint” condition; the Blond Men, true bad characters themselves, drive a Trans Am, which is a sleeker, “badder” car; the two women who approach the boys at the end of the story drive a flashy silver Mustang “with flame decals.” The narrator’s mother’s car, then, reflects his youth and naiveté, and suggests that even though he affects the demeanor of someone who is bad and cool, his integrity is still intact. The other people at Greasy Lake, however, drive cars that show their corruption and moral decay. When the Bad Character and the two men in the Trans Am destroy the narrator’s mother’s Bel Air in retribution for the boys’ attack on The Fox, the act can be seen as a metaphor for the destruction of the boys’ naiveté. They thought that driving fast and looking “bad” were symbols of freedom; the reality, though, is that their cushy lifestyles and innocence were the true freedoms, and the reality of danger and decadence is not one they can handle.

Cars Quotes in Greasy Lake

The Greasy Lake quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cars. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Danger Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Greasy Lake published in 1986.
Greasy Lake Quotes

It was early June, the third night of summer vacation. The first two nights we’d been out [driving around] till dawn, looking for something we never found.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Digby, Jeff
Related Symbols: Greasy Lake, Cars
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Greasy Lake LitChart as a printable PDF.
Greasy Lake PDF

Cars Symbol Timeline in Greasy Lake

The timeline below shows where the symbol Cars appears in Greasy Lake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Greasy Lake
Danger Theme Icon
Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
...taste.” In order to appear “bad,” they wore torn and tough clothes, raced their parents’ station wagons , and “struck elaborate poses to show that [they] didn’t give a shit about anything.”... (full context)
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Nature vs. Development Theme Icon
Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
The narrator, in his mother’s Bel Air , drives Digby and Jeff out to Greasy Lake. It is the third night of... (full context)
Danger Theme Icon
Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
...the dirt lot at the edge of the lake, they notice a metallic blue ’57 Chevy in mint condition parked there. “On the far side of the lot,” the narrator observes,... (full context)
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Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Digby exclaims that the Chevy is “Tony Lovett’s car,” and honks the Bel Air’s horn. The narrator, at Digby’s suggestion,... (full context)
Danger Theme Icon
Nature vs. Development Theme Icon
Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
...keys” and dropping them in the “dark, mysterious nighttime grass.” The second “was identifying the Chevy [in the first place] as Tony Lovett’s.” (full context)
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Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
A “very bad greasy character” emerges from the Chevy—which is a “much lighter” blue, the boys realize, “than the robin’s-egg of Tony’s car.” The... (full context)
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...then leaps onto the Bad Character’s back, savagely biting his ear. The narrator reaches into the Bel Air for the tire iron he keeps under the driver’s seat “for just such an occasion... (full context)
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Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
...scream rips through the silence of the dark night—it is The Fox, emerging from the Chevy “barefoot [and] dressed in panties and a man’s shirt.” She runs, with clenched fists, toward... (full context)
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Nature vs. Development Theme Icon
Action vs. Inaction Theme Icon
Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
A car “[swings] into the lot,” catching the boys in their state of “lust and greed and... (full context)
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...pleading with him and calling him “Bobbie.” Eventually he listens to her, gets into the Chevy with her, and drives off. The two blond men, left behind and seeming spooked by... (full context)
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Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
...chopper, a bad older character, another headline.” The narrator realizes that even though his mother’s car is destroyed, he still has his life. (full context)
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As dawn begins to break, the narrator stands and returns to his mother’s car. He takes stock of the extensive damage, and Digby and Jeff “emerge from [their hiding... (full context)
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A “silver Mustang with flame decals” pulls into the lot. Digby and Jeff get into their car and... (full context)
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Two girls step out of the car, dressed in “tight jeans [and] stiletto[s.]” They inspect the motorcycle and call for someone named... (full context)
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Memory, Reminiscence, and the Pull of the Past Theme Icon
...on all three of the boys’ behalves, refuses the drugs. The narrator then puts the car in gear and begins to drive away. As he does, he looks back in the... (full context)