What motivates Rusty-James to steal and engage in other unlawful acts in Rumble Fish?

Expert Answers
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Much of the blame for Rusty-James' adolescent criminal activity lies with his family upbringing. Rusty's mother, who apparently suffered from criminal tendencies herself, abandoned the family and left Rusty alone for three days when he was just two years old. Rusty's father, a former attorney, is a jobless drunk who gives his sons little support or fatherly guidance. Rusty-James idolizes his older brother, the Motorcycle Boy, a respected former gang leader who loves to steal motorcycles and travel for months at a time. The mysterious Motorcycle Boy (whose real name is never given) is rumored to have killed a junkie, and threatens to break Rusty-James' arm if he ever uses drugs. Poverty and a lack of self-respect are other reason's for Rusty's actions. Rusty-James' family serves as some of the poorest role models possible, and Rusty--who hates being alone--finds the streets a better place to inhabit than his own home. Rusty's love of fighting and stealing stem from a desire to live up to his older brother's former stature, and he seems to think that by doing so, the Motorcycle Boy--and other gang members--will respect and admire him as well.