This opening paragraph is very introductory: it impresses immediately upon the reader the setting and character type. The reader is brought into this world of badness and decadence so that they will later understand better the actions and reactions of the characters, which would seem weird if not for the context in which they take place. The introductory paragraph establishes a community of badness: to feel as they belong in this social group, to be accepted, and to be bad is essential. The opening sentence sets the tone/atmosphere/setting for the rest of the story so that we expect the type of characters and events we are later introduced to. “There was a time when courtesy and winning ways went out of style…” “Out of style” suggests that, as discussed later, it was simply not “cool” to be good, and if one was, one would be “out of style” and thus out of the group or community.
“cultivated decadence like a taste”: the language used suggests that the badness did not come naturally but was “cultivated” as a lifestyle, as a skill. To cultivate decadence is also an oxymoron, as “cultivate” is a word generally associated with higher class, tastefulness, etc. “We…” sentences refer to “bad” people as a group/community. Indicates peer pressure or conformity? Short sentences like a list create a sort of emotional distance, making several points concisely. In the way they are structured and, in turn, structure the paragraph, the sentences suggest that “we…” are somewhat like commandments or standards of behaviour for this community of bad nineteen-year-olds. “Struck elaborate poses to show that we didn’t give a shit about anything.”
It implies a certain level of posing, not physically, but as people, they actually are not. They are trying to prove that they “didn’t give a shit about anything” because that is accepted in the group as “cool”. As the narrator describes one unforgettable night in his young adulthood, he reveals more about himself by describing the setting. The action takes place in a postmodern city. The author describes the setting as being in the ‘center of the town’ with ‘housing developments.’ This carefully sets the scene for an inhuman, violent action and an outright display of moral failure in postmodernism. This moral failure is to be shown throughout the story, where the naivete of the adolescent and his two friends Digby and Jeff, are mocked by the narrator’s ironic, amused, and detached tone. The setting describes the passage of the protagonist from water to land and from night to morning. This parallels his transition from ignorance to knowledge and from chaos to order.
The change in nature imagery establishes a transition from tranquillity to disturbance and chaos. ‘Clarity of its waters’ changed to ‘fetid and murky’ mud banks with ‘broken glass.’ The broken glass is a remnant of violence and decadence and thus foreshadows ominous events that are soon to take place. The allusions to pop culture serve to denote the boys’ adolescence. ‘drink beer,’ ‘smoke pot,’ ‘howl at the stars,’ ‘savour the incongruous full-throated roar of rock and roll’ are references to pop culture, and they symbolize the transformation from adolescence to adulthood. There are a variety of sentence structures. There are both long, complex structures and terse structures. The extended metaphor incorporated to describe the scene ends with an abrupt phrase, ‘This was nature.’ By summing up the paragraph with a clear definition, Boyle associates the ‘roar of rock and roll’ and smoking pot to ‘nature’.
This is unnatural and incongruent to the real definition of nature, but it nevertheless reflects the narrator’s distorted perception and represents the narrator’s lifestyle at the time. “There was a time when courtesy and winning ways went out of style…” The opening sentence sets the tone/atmosphere/setting for the rest of the story so that we expect the type of characters and events we are later introduced to. “Out of style” suggests that, as discussed later, it was simply not “cool” to be good, and if one was, one would be “out of style” and thus out of the group or community. This time probably refers to the 1950s, and the story then relies strongly on the lifestyle and culture of that period. However, another interpretation of that sentence could be that the narrator was referring to a time in his life, around the age of nineteen, meaning that, at that age, “courtesy and winning ways went out of style.”