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Celebrating the Life

[Longhorn Review] Rumble Fish

Material Type: All, Books — Posted on May 2, 2011, 3:34 pm

By: S.E. Hinton

Two Tough and Thoughtful Guppies

Review on Rumble Fish novel by S.E. Hinton

Rumble Fish was the third book written by S.E. Hinton, a female author known for
adopting a male perspective in most of her novels and short stories starring violent
and troubled teenagers. In Rumble Fish she introduces us to Rusty-James, a violent
fifteen year old, boy hung up on trying to bring back the gangs and “rumbles,”
literally fighting his way through each day. Because of parental neglect, poverty,
and violence Rusty-James finds himself clinging to the memory of the gangs in the
past, trying to reach the notoriety his famous brother, The Motorcycle Boy, had
obtained in the city. Both brothers are curious specimens of isolation products of
their social environment. Rusty-James is a young man trying to belong and The
Motorcycle Boy is a young man who does not want to belong.

The use of symbols is
evident throughout the book to develop these two complex characters and their
attitudes toward their world. The Motorcycle Boy is partially deaf and colorblind
due to the accidents he suffers on his various escapes on stolen motorcycles. This
deaf and colorblindness keeps him from seeing the colorful lights of the parties and
nightlife that Rusty-James is so attracted. His deafness also keeps him from hearing
Rusty-James’s comments on the things he does not see or hear because of his
condition. The motorcycle is The Motorcycle Boy’s escape and freedom from the slump
he lives in. He steals them and leaves days in a row but always has to come back for
reasons which the reader is left to assume, his love for his brother or the lack of
money to leave long enough. Rusty-James always alludes to the color of his hair and
eyes that is very unique to him and his brother, however, the essence of The
Motorcycle Boy reflected in the way he “sees through” people contorts his face, and
attitude that their physical similarities undermines the larger difference in their
philosophy of life. Last but not least are the rumble fish kept in separate bowls.
“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.” The Siamese fighting
fish represent the individual fighting spirit of each boy that keeps them from
fitting into their society and finding a meaning in their life.

The theme and plot
in the story remind me of The Catcher in the Rye in which we are also presented with
an antihero, Holden Caulfield. In both stories the reader drifts through the days of
the main character witnessing the thoughtlessness of their actions and the
character’s suppression of the feelings and realizations that new experiences bring.
Contrary to the manner in which the characters express their seamlessly defiant and
unchanged views and manner toward life, the reader understands that there is a
change happening within the character that does not have to be addressed through
their thoughts or their dialogue, but rather is presented in a matter of fact yet
subtle manner. Both of these pieces leave the reader with an open ending that can
drive one insane with speculation of why anyone would float through life in such a
manner. Both of these works are wonderful short books, yet very insightful to the
meaning of life especially through their perspective on the years in which human
nature seems to drive one to recklessness. Rumble Fish is a great read and trying to
evaluate what propels one’s own life and actions and gives an insight to the lives
of those we might never understand, the cool kids who can’t live for the future due
to paranoia and instead see life as a rumble.

Reviewer: Sara Cabral

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