In Rumble Fish, Rusty James acts like the toughest cat in the neighborhood: prides himself on being mischievous, rebellious, and as if he’s invincible. Although deep down, he is falling apart at the seams. Rusty may seem fearless on the streets, but when alone, he’s in the greatest fear he can imagine. This causes him to surround himself with his girlfriend, everyone in the neighborhood, and his biggest role model, Motorcycle Boy. We also see the character have an inner struggle with the fact that both of his parents don’t have any intention to be a part of his life.
To add to this tension, the crooked authority in town is especially watching Rusty James and Motorcycle Boy’s every movement to get them off the streets for good. In the novel, the audience experiences how from such a young age, Rusty developed an underlying fear of being lonely or abandoned. He explains, I tried to remember why I liked lots of people. “I wonder–how come? Maybe because I don’t like bein’ by myself. I mean, man, I can’t stand it. Makes me feel tight, like I’m bein’ choked all over. ” (83) As the story continues, we learn the root of why Rusty James hates being alone.
Motorcycle Boy states, “When you were two years old, and I was six, mother decided to leave. She took me with her. The old man went on a three-day drunk when he found out… he left you alone in the house for those three days… I suppose you developed your fear of being alone then. ” (83-84) Rusty’s thirst for his love may never be quenched as she remains absent for the rest of the book. He also has a conflict with his father being an alcoholic; his dad never paid much attention to him or his brother, Motorcycle Boy. Rusty expresses, “He drank all day out in bars, and came home and read and drank at night. That’s not doing anything.
But we got along okay, so I couldn’t hate him. I didn’t hate him. I just Nelson 2 wished I could like him better. ” (58) He and his father continued to have an awkward relationship although Tusty yearned for more. This is mainly why he looked to Motorcycle boy for guidance. In Rusty James’s eyes. Motorcycle boy is the greatest person in this world. He was everything Rusty aspired to be. Attractive, the toughest around, and good at everything he does. “I was so glad the Motorcycle Boy came home. He was the coolest person in the whole world. Even if he hadn’t been my brother he would have been the coolest person in the whole world.
And I was going to be just like him” (39). Anyone who saw the Motorcycle Boy, or knew him personally, knows that he is something special. “Everyone likes him. Rusty-James says that people look at him, stop, and then look again” (Rumble Fish Wiki). Rusty has had this long lasting void in his life for guidance, which causes him to become dependent on his brother. Much like his brother, Rusty is stuck in life going nowhere. “He’s miscast in a play… He was born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river, with the ability to do anything and findin’ nothing he wants to do” (128).
Without Motorcycle Boy, Rusty had no clue what to do with himself. Throughout the story, Rusty experiences quite a few incidents, one after another during an important part of growing up. A contributor on eNotes states, “What makes Rumble Fish different from earlier Hinton works is the darkness of this vision. Here is no happy ending, as in The Outsiders, and no bittersweet lesson about growing up, as in That Was Then, This Is Now. What readers find instead is a novel about the impossibility of escaping the past, or one’s own biological destiny, and the finality of ending alone” (Rumble Fish Summary).
After getting into a knife fight the night before, Rusty James’s girlfriend breaks up with him. In the result of his fear of being left and his feelings for this girl, this takes a toll on him more than he expected “I felt funny my throat was tight, and I couldn’t breathe real good. I wondered if I was going to cry… ” (69). Rusty was also kicked out of school the same day due to his lengthy offense record over time. This means he would be transferred to a school with his worst enemy “But if I just walked into his home territory, I was a dead man.
It’d be me against half the school” (63). Transferring would only cause him more trouble and he knew that. As things continued to spiral downward, soon everything would hit the fan. Their growing problem with police escalated quickly, “Rusty James. You know that cop Patterson is just looking for an excuse to get him” (121). Motorcycle boy becomes infatuated with the concept of these Siamese Rumble Fish at a nearby pet store, “Siamese fighting fish. They try to kill each other. if you leaned a mirror against the bowl they’d kill themselves fighting their own reflection” (123).
Through the rest of the night this idea plants deep into Rusty’s brother’s head and it compels him to go get these Rumble Fish despite that the store is closed now. Rusty does whatever he can to try and stop him from committing this act but there’s no hope. Waiting desperately for this break to catch these two boys, cop Patterson was first to put a stop to the robbery. Patterson shot the Motorcycle Boy. Rusty expresses, “So I was there when they turned him over, and he was smiling, and the little rumble fish were flipping and dying around him… ” (131).
Rusty was in shock and needed some kind of reassurance from anyone but didn’t receive it. He heard Patterson say, “Shock, hell. He’s probably on dope or something” (132). Rusty was then thrown into a reformatory for some time, ultimately now, alone as he feared. Nelson 4 In conclusion, this story is about a young man who is stuck in a life of disappointment and hardships for the rest of his life. Steve tells him, “You’re just like a ball in a pinball machine. Getting slammed back and forth; and you never think about anything, about where you’re going or how you’re going to get there … ” (113).
He’s has lost all of the support from friends, family, and most importantly his brother is now gone. Unlike almost every story, this one has no happy conclusion. Rusty is haunted by his past with the outside authority always being against him, his parents absence in his life, and the curse of inevitably ending up alone. All he can do now is try to forget the past. Critical Survey of Literature for Students states, “Rusty decides that he never wants to see Steve again, so that he can start forgetting about Motorcycle Boy, but it is taking Rusty longer than expected to forget his older brother. ” (eNotes).