Discussion Topic

The Motorcycle Boy's character traits and lifestyle in Rumble Fish


The Motorcycle Boy in Rumble Fish is characterized by his aloofness, intelligence, and a sense of detachment from the world. He is a former gang leader who is disillusioned with the gang life and seeks meaning beyond it. His lifestyle is marked by a quest for freedom and understanding, often symbolized by his fascination with the rumble fish in the pet store.

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Why is The Motorcycle Boy a loner in Rumble Fish?

The older brother of Rusty-James, Motorcycle Boy is

"...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."

He seems older than he actually is and is quite intelligent; his perfect scholastic test scores in school are always questioned, and authorities assume that Motorcycle Boy must be cheating. His terrible home life contributes to his desire to be on his own: His mother eventually abandons the family, and his father often disappears on drunken benders. He has no real home or even a room of his own; he shares a cot and mattress with his father and brother, and they sleep on whichever is available. Motorcycle Boy's real name is never revealed, giving him a more mysterious and aloof persona. He grows tired of his violent gang life, and leaves town in order to cleanse himself. His love of motorcycles leads him to steal them and spend his life on the road whenever possible. The injuries he has received have left him color-blind and partially deaf, further restricting his social interaction in conversation and to visually see the real world in its proper perspective. Motorcycle Boy believes he cannot absolutely be free unless he is on his own, free from the hero-worship of Rusty-James and the bad memories of his earlier years in his home town.

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Why doesn't Motorcycle Boy drink in Rumble Fish?

It's not too surprising that Motorcycle Boy doesn't drink—or do drugs, for that matter—being as how his old man's such a degenerate alcoholic. But more than that, he's a natural leader, a charismatic guy who just oozes rebellious cool. And as a leader, Motorcycle Boy wants to stay in control. That's why he doesn't drink alcohol. He only has to look at his father to see the damage that booze can do, how it means that you're no longer in control of your own life, let alone anyone else's. Motorcycle Boy takes after his mother in that he sees the world differently from most people. As well as being a non-conformist in adult society, he also rebels against the conventions of teenage sub-culture, which revolves around the excessive consumption of alcohol.

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