I am drawn to my primary source because of the way S.E. Hinton develops the main character Rusty-James. James is a 14 year-old kid that lacks a real parental figure. His father is a drunk that spends most of his time barhopping. His mother left their family when James was only an infant. The only other significant person is his brother, the Motorcycle Boy. MB is the most important figure in James’ development because he completely idolizes him. The relationship between James and the MB is the biggest theme in the story because there are multiple instances where he mentions wanting to be just like his older brother.
One instance where James mentions wanting to be like his older brother is in the first chapter. The first chapter is interesting because it is a flash forward. The rest (besides part of the last chapter) occur around five years prior to the initial dialogue. The quote is as follows:
“”You know who I thought you were for a second?” My stomach clenched itself into a fist, and an old fear started creeping up my backbone”
Another character, Steve, in the story mentions his resemblance to his older brother. James does not like that because he ends up figuring out that being like his brother is not what he expected it to be. At this point in reading the book, the reader should not know that James’ older brother is killed. That is another reason why I like Hinton’s use of flash forward to begin the book because once you finish the book you have an “ah-ha” moment where you realize the significance of that “…old fear…”
In trying to be like his older brother, the reader finds a caveat in James’ plan. James wants to be like a guy (MB) that does not belong anywhere and does not want to belong anywhere, but James has to belong to something. James can’t function alone. The MB even says that, “loyalty is his only vice”. While reading, I found two quotes that relate to this contradiction. The first is a description of who MB from their father’s perspective:
“…is merely miscast in a play. He would have made a perfect knight in a different century, or a very good pagan prince in a time of heroes. He was 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”(chapter11
That is who the MB is, a person that fits anywhere, but does not want to belong anywhere. The MB has no need to of anyone else whereas James cannot function alone. James describes his feeling towards loneliness in this passage:
“I tried to remember why I liked lots of people… “Maybe because I don’t like bein’ by myself… Makes me feel tight, like I’m bein’ choked all over.”” (Chapter 7)
Hinton purposely makes the two characters complete opposites because in her story she builds up James’ want to be like his older brother. The reader knows that his attempts are futile because he is always told by all that he is not. Steve, James’ father, and even a stranger bluntly point it out to James dismay. The observation is warranted because he has an inability to be completely independent. In the book, there are multiple instances where James is scared to be left alone. Another example throughout the book is that James always refers to the “old way” where gangs were around. James is hung up on this idea that gangs needed to come back. He can’t let go of old ways whereas his brother at one point was a proponent of the gang life until it wasn’t fun anymore.
What completes the story is that James finally becomes like his older brother almost instantaneously. Unfortunately he realizes that this was not what he wanted. James talks about the experience in this passage:
“I was in a glass bubble and everyone else was outside it and id be alone like that for the rest of my life.”
James sees that what he wanted to be was exactly what he loathed. This is the best part because it is so bittersweet. Hinton tells us that we may not always like what we ask for.
- ** I sometimes used MB to represent the Motorcycle Boy because his real name is never revealed.
- Hinton, S.E. “Rumblefish”