Smokey Bennet
Smokey, named for the unusual color of his eyes, is one of Rusty-James's friends and a member of the group, but he is nervous about gang violence. When Rusty-James says of the "old days" when he was eleven, "A gang really meant some-thin' back then," Smokey says, "Meant gettin' sent to the hospital once a week." Smokey is not a loyal friend; he sets things up to make it look like Rusty-James is cheating on his girlfriend Patty so she'll dump Rusty-James and Smokey can go out with her. He also tells Rusty-James that if the gangs were still around, he would be president, not Rusty-James.

B. J. is a friend of Rusty-James's, one of the group. He is fat but tough. As Rusty-James says, "Tough fat guys ain't as rare as you think."

Cassandra was a student teacher at the high school the year before, and the Motorcycle Boy was in one of her classes. She fell in love with him, and although she has a college education and comes from a good family, she moved into an apartment in Rusty-James's part of town and now follows the Motorcycle Boy around. She doesn't wear makeup, often goes barefoot, and has a lot of cats. Rusty-James views her as phony because she tries to talk like the Motorcycle Boy, saying "meaningful" things. She is a drug addict, whose habit the Motorcycle Boy detests.

Mr. Harrigan
Mr. Harrigan is the guidance counselor at Rusty-James's school. Rusty-James says, "There was something about Mr. Harrigan that made my mind go kind of blank, even when he was swatting me with a board."

Weston McCauley
McCauley is a former friend of the Motorcycle Boy and used to be second lieutenant in the Packers, the local gang. He's a heroin addict now.

Midget is a tall, skinny kid who notifies Rusty-James that Biff Wilcox is out to get him.

Motorcycle Boy
The Motorcycle Boy, whose real name the reader never learns, is Rusty-James's older brother and hero. He got his name because he loves motorcycles and steals them and rides them. He is not interested in owning one, though. He is color-blind and sometimes deaf as a result of motorcycle accidents, and although he is a charismatic, natural leader, he's also odd—not quite connected to the rest of humanity. Rusty-James says, "He had strange eyes—they made me think of a two-way mirror. Like you could feel somebody on the other side watching you, but the only reflection you saw was your own." He has been expelled from school for scoring "perfect tests"; it's clear that the authorities assumed he was cheating but not clear whether he actually was. It seems that he might be much smarter than the school gives him credit for because he reads a great deal. He has always seemed older than his real age, and he tells Rusty-James, "I stopped bein' a little kid when I was five." When he was fourteen, storekeepers stopped asking for his ID, so he could buy liquor. At the same age, he was the leader of the gang, the Packers, and older kids asked for his advice. Later, he decided that gang violence was stupid and boring and put a stop to it. He detests drug addicts, and rumor has it that he once killed a junkie. He tells Rusty-James that if he ever uses drugs, he' ll break Rusty-James's arm, and Rusty-James believes him.

Roy Patterson
Roy Patterson is a police officer who has a grudge against Rusty-James and the...

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Rumble Fish Themes and Characters

Rumble Fish records the experiences, friendships, and conflicts of a group of Oklahoma teen-agers. Hinton's most ambitious work, it focuses on the character of Rusty-James, through whom the reader confronts a disillusioning vision of life as an empty, pointless experience wholly controlled by destiny.

Hinton traces the evolution of Rusty-James's personality by comparing him to the book's two other central characters: his brother, the Motorcycle Boy, whom he emulates, and Steve, an emotional, shy, and awkward teen-ager whom he nevertheless considers his best friend. As Rusty-James steps further away from his troubled but self-regulated life, he achieves a greater understanding of his world, and the full meaning of Hinton's dark image of adolescent despair emerges.

Rusty-James assumes a tough exterior to mask his vulnerability and loneliness. He admits that he is afraid to be alone, obsessed with appearance, and dependent on the company of others. Rejected by the school authorities and his girlfriend, he gradually "burns out" and succumbs to the disturbing family traditions that have helped shape his negative outlook on life. Unable to identify with the gang that once boosted his sense of self-importance, he gravitates toward the "cool" but self-destructive model of the Motorcycle Boy.

Rusty-James's mother abandoned the family when he was two years old, leaving his father to sink into alcoholism and the Motorcycle Boy to grow estranged from virtually all of humanity. Rusty-James himself is unable to overcome his family's legacy; his fate echoes Greek tragedy, which asserts that humanity behaves primarily according to biological necessity and destiny. The fighting "rumble fish" for whom the book is named, as well as mythological figures such as Prometheus who dare to resist this determinism, are inevitably destroyed.

Rusty-James's father and...

(The entire section is 773 words.)