One of Hinton's main messages in Rumble Fish is how there is a great deal of sadness in life. The darkness of Rumble Fish speaks to this. There is no restoration, and little redemption in it. There is only an overwhelming condition of sadness and hurt which defines consciousness. Through the characters and plot, Hinton suggests that there is a great deal of pain in simply being. The book's message explores what happens to people who are immersed in this painful condition: "...born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river, with the ability to do anything and finding nothing he wants to do."
The message that emerges from the book is that all human beings have voice. Social negation or silencing this voice does not remove it. Whether individuals are alienated socially or personally, their voice is still valid and must be authenticated. The primary characters in the novel share a quality of having their voice silenced. Such a reality reveals the hurt and pain that is an integral part of the novel. Like Rusty- James, Hinton shows how people wear masks to conceal their hurt and forlorn condition. The masquerade does not remove the fact that they are hurting. Some of these masks are seen in gangs, drug use, and alcoholic consumption. Validation of this hurt is the first step to minimizing it. The struggle to overcome these masks and understand the hurt intrinsic to the condition of silencing voice is a critical message that emerges from the novel. This takes place on an individual level, devoid of attachments and social solidarity, making it all the more difficult. It is in this regard where the message of the novel is a complex and sad one.