For “Greasy Lake:” Although the narrator and his friends find themselves thrown into an unpredictable, violent situation, what textual evidence is presented that demonstrates that they are not really as “bad” and “dangerous” (at least initially) as they think they are? (Give at least two to three examples; remember to place quotation marks around your direct quotes). What factors cause these characters to cross the line from seemingly normal teens to potential criminals? How do you feel the narrator has changed by the end of the story? Remember that this is told from his perspective only so we are only privy to his change (and can only assume about change for his friends).
Paper Comments Greasy Lake” / 1020H
1. Freud: An integral and intriguing part of this narrative is the violence (including a potential gang rape) from seemingly non-violent characters. Apply the following theory by Freud to the violence within the story. You may not agree with this theory but look for elements of truth. View the behavior of the characters through the lens of Freud.
“The bit of truth behind all this—one so eagerly denied—is that men are not gentle, friendly creatures wishing for love, who simply defend themselves if they are attacked, but that a powerful measure of desire for aggression has to be reckoned as part of their instinctual endowment. The result is that their neighbor is to them not only a possible helper or sexual object, but also a temptation to them to gratify their aggressiveness on him………Homo homini lupus: Who has the courage to dispute it in the face of all the evidence in his own life and in history? This aggressive cruelty usually lies in wait for some provocation.”
(Homo homini lupus: “man’s inhumanity to man”; “man is a wolf to man.”)
–taken from Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents
2. Sociological behavior: Apply this theory to the “profanity chant,” the fight, and the potential for group violence involving the girl.
“Collective behavior includes such phenomena as crowds, panics, riots, mass hysteria, revivals, fads, fashions, rumors, and social movements. These forms of behavior include the breakdown of socially structured behavior, transitory norms, and a relative
absence of traditional social control mechanisms….According to the Contagion theory, crowds initially show their volatility by “milling,” where individuals become increasingly tense, restless, uneasy, and excited. With increased excitement, emotion, and reciprocal stimulation, people are more likely to act together when influenced by a common mood than they are to act separately.” (taken from Social Aspects of Sport (1989) by Eldon Snyder and Elmer Spreitzer)
3. Aristotle: The narrator and his friends seem to be out of control and may even contend that they had no control over their emotions and subsequent violent actions. The narrator even calls his actions “instantaneous, astonishing”. Aristotle would not agree. Discuss both possibilities: that they were temporarily out of control (actions are involuntary) and that they were in control (actions are voluntary). Which do you agree with?
Aristotle believed that it was “absurd to regard irrational emotions as involuntary” and that the actions “due to passion or desire are voluntary…the end or character of an action depends upon the choice made at the moment of performing it… The irrational emotions seem to be as truly human as the reason itself and therefore we are as truly responsible for our emotions as for our reasoning.” (from Aristotle’s Ethics, translated by J.E.C. Welldon).