Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Rumble Fish

Go To
The aptly named Motorcycle Boy.

Rusty James: Hey man, I really dig the colors.
Motorcycle Boy: The colors?
Rusty James: The colors are cool.
Motorcycle Boy: Makes me kinda sorry I can't see the colors.
Rusty James: I never thought you were sorry about anything.

Rumble Fish is a 1975 coming of age novel by S. E. Hinton, and the sequel to her first classic, The Outsiders, although the links between the two are slight.

The plot concerns Rusty James, an Emo Teen on the inside, ruthless gangster on the outside, who is constantly trying to live up to the reputation of his older brother, The Motorcycle Boy, who has grown bored with life and is, ironically, trying to escape from the reputation he has created. When The Motorcycle Boy comes back to town after several months on the road, Rusty James' world comes crashing down as he comes to terms with the fact that his brother's violent lifestyle is something that he can never have, and that he must rise above the only world he has ever known in order to prove himself the man he's always wanted to be, which means letting go of his brother.


Was made into a strange but stylish, black-and-white feature film by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983, written largely by S. E. Hinton herself. Bashed by critics on its release for being confusing, and hugely unconventional, the film is now considered something of a cult classic, with many modern critics preferring it to the first film, The Outsiders. The film starred Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Spano, Diana Scarwid and Dennis Hopper.

Has no relation to the 2004 Fighting Game The Rumble Fish.


This film features examples of:

  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the film, the Motorcycle Boy is more attentive and paternal toward Rusty James than he is in the novel.
  • Age Lift: In the novel, Rusty James and the motorcycle boy are three years younger than they are portrayed in the film. In the novel, the Motorcycle Boy is only 17 whereas in the film, he is 21.
  • The Alcoholic: Rusty James' father.
  • Jerkass: Smokey.
  • Jerkass Has a Point
    Smokey: You know, if there were gangs around like in the old days, I'd be running things, not you. You'd be second lieutenant. You might have gotten by for a while on the Motorcycle Boy's rep, but you have to be smart to run things. You ain't got your brother's brains. It's nothing personal, Rusty James, but nobody would follow you into a fight because you'd get people killed - and nobody wants to be killed.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Motorcycle Boy and, at least at the beginning, Rusty James.
  • Leave the Camera Running: subverted, see time-lapse photographies of clouds racing across the sky.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The titular Rumblefish in the film are the only things in colour.
  • Suicide by Cop: Somewhat. The Motorcycle Boy.
  • The Film of the Book: Not as faithful as the film of The Outsiders, but stunningly adapted nonetheless.