Gender Roles and its Implications on Adulthood
In T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Greasy Lake,” an unidentified speaker recalls an incident where he and his friends, who maintain a maverick lifestyle and reject moral values, face a threatening opponent. Though their challenger is physically stronger than all three of them, they manage to subdue him. In the end, their frightening experiences compel them to realize the futility of their adolescent misbehavior and understand that characters even more ‘bad’ than they are exist out in the adult world. The characters of “Greasy Lake” escape a considerably less unfortunate fate, however, compared to Connie of Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Connie, a fifteen years old girl, remains confined to her home and the outskirts of her town for the majority of her life. That is, until she is blackmailed into leaving behind the comforts of her home and family by an alarmingly dangerous character. Her end is left to speculation by the reader, but it is strongly implied that whatever events lie in store for her are far worse than what the unnamed narrator from “Greasy Lake” experienced. The two authors use symbolism and setting extensively, as they document their characters’ transition from childhood to adulthood. More importantly, however, both literary devices are used to demonstrate the importance of being prepared for one’s coming-of-age. Setting plays an important role in both short stories by defining gender roles and illustrating the type of environment each character developed in. In doing so, it becomes clear why characters living in relatively close time periods faced vastly different outcomes by the end of their respective story. The unnamed narrator lived as an adolescent during a time “when courtesy and winning ways went out of style” and “when it was good to be bad” (294). According to the speaker, he grew up in a setting where counterculture was cherished and...
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