1. Critics have noted Hinton's extremely negative portrayal of parents in Rumble Fish. What does she reveal about Rusty-James's parents? Does Hinton have a purpose for drawing such characterizations?
2. In what ways do the fighting "rumble fish" for which the book is named parallel the natures of Rusty-James and the Motorcycle Boy?
3. In many ways, Steve is a comic character, yet his fate is far more desirable than Rusty-James's. What factors account for his survival?
4. What does Rusty-James admire about his brother? Why does it seem unlikely, for much of the novel, that he will grow up to be like him?
5. The Motorcycle Boy is a mass of contradictions. Explain his opposing traits.
6. Rusty-James's father believes that the Motorcycle Boy is exactly like his mother. What traits do they share?
7. An observer in the pool hall calls the Motorcycle Boy "royalty in exile." What does he mean?
8. Police Officer Patterson is described as having a vendetta against the Motorcycle Boy. What might be the policeman's motives for wanting to destroy the Motorcycle Boy?
9. Some readers (as well as Steve) think that the Motorcycle Boy is mentally ill. Give some reasons for this opinion.
10. The Motorcycle Boy claims that his expulsion from school resulted from his perfect scores on tests and his perfect behavior. Is it possible that a student could be thrown out for such reasons? Why or why not?
11. The Motorcycle Boy condemns gang fights as "cowboy and Indian crap." He also rejects drug use. Explain his attitude in light of his otherwise asocial behavior.
12. Cassandra, an aspiring teacher, is a drug addict. Is the Motorcycle Boy responsible for this, or do other forces affect her?
13. Cassandra sends Rusty-James a message: "Life goes on ... if you let it." What does she mean, and why is this advice appropriate for Rusty-James?