How did Steve and some other boys feel about the fight between Rusty-James and Biff?

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"I get annoyed when people want to kill me for some stupid little reason. Something big, and I don't mind it so much."

Early in S.E. Hinton's 1975 novel Rumble Fish, the protagonist and narrator is hanging out in a pool hall when he learns that a guy named Biff wants to fight him, and in fact is "looking to kill [him]" (6). Rusty-James is a tough guy and low-key juvenile delinquent, and he appears unfazed by this news. His friends, who are also hanging out there and include Steve, Smokey, B.J. Jackson, and Midget, who brings him the news, are more concerned. Steve, his closet friend with greater ambitions than Rusty-James (he ends up going to college), is especially worried: "He was scared it would end up in a gang fight" (9). Rusty-James wants to be like his older brother, a semi-legendary figure known as Motorcycle Boy, while the other boys are looking to avoid the fight. They agree to go as back up but only reluctantly. I think they see a life that doesn't involve smoking, poll halls, and rumbles in the street, which is all Rusty-James seems to care about.

They go to a vacant lot for the fight. Rusty-James acts fearless, but, once again, the other boys are more cautious. Smokey notices that Biff's "been poppin' pills" (21). During the fight, Rusty-James is slashed by Biff, and Motorcycle Boy returns to stop the fight. The boys are concerned for his wound, even though he, of course, laughs it off. Steve, who sneaked out of the house for the brawl, notices how badly he's bleeding. All in all, the fight shows how much Rusty-James's personality and world view differs from his more conventional friends.

Note: I'm using the Laurel-Leaf paperback edition.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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