“… they got enough to put up with. ‘ [he said. ] I was surprised. I don’t surprise easy. ‘But that ain’t fair,’ I said finally. When the [expletive] did you start expecting anything to be fair? ‘ he asked. He didn’t sound bitter, only a little bit curious;” modern author S. E. Hinton, like many of her characters, has been given an unfair life (32, ch. 3). From her father dying of III cancer to Hinton is a victim of circumstance. Her contemporary writings have been the portrayals of all of the unfortunate circumstances that she has survived.
Many know that she found herself while writing The Outsiders, but through Rumble Fish, Hinton strengthened her writing in both voice and appeal. On July 22, 1950, Susan Eloise Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Growing up in such a small town, there was not much for a young girl like Hinton to do. Her interests revolved around reading, writing, and horses; however, she noticed that there were not many books that demanded her attention. By the time she had read every book in her school library, Hinton was tired of reading books with characters whose problems weren’t relatable.
She “said, l’d wanted to read books that showed teenagers outside the life of ‘Mary Jane went to the rom” (Wilson 14). She craved more excitement from authors and their books, and she was willing to do anything to satisfy that craving. Her father died of cancer when she was seventeen, and she turned to writing as a coping mechanism. It was then that she fully devoted herself to writing and put aside her childhood dream of being a cattle rancher. She wrote the first draft of The Outsiders in 1965 and published the final manuscript in 1967.
Growing up on the greaser side of town herself, Hinton often included firsthand experiences from her school interactions and er friends. She dedicated her first novel to her closest cousin, who shared many of those experiences with her through mutual friends. Due to the popularity of The Outsiders, Hinton was able to attend the University of Tulsa, where she earned a teaching degree and met her future husband, David Inhofe. Hinton soon realized that she would never enjoy teaching as much as writing.
Following the publication of her second novel, That Was Then, This Is Now, Hinton was becoming known as “The Voice of the Youth” because of her realistic depiction of life in her novels (“SE Hinton. com”). In an interview on That Was Then, This Is Now, Hinton says: “I understand kids and I really like them. And I have a very good memory. I remember exactly what it was like to be a teenager that nobody listened to or paid attention to or wanted around. I mean, it wasn’t like that with my own family, but I knew a lot of kids like that and hung around with them… Somehow I always understood them.
They were my type” (“S. E. Hinton Biography”). Hinton continued writing about the lives of teenagers because even today, she still finds youth more relatable. Her next novel, Rumble Fish, includes Hinton’s most complex character, The Motorcycle Boy (“The Outsiders”). It tells a story of gang wars and that of a man who loses everything important to him in his efforts to become something he is not. Her fourth book, Tex, is a story of two brothers living in a crazy family trying to survive through all of it.
Tex grabbed the attention of the young readers, followed her last novel for young adults, Taming the Star Runner, sparked the imagination of teenagers everywhere with the story of a boy, a horse, and the pursuit of a dream. S. E. Hinton has been honored with a plethora of awards, including the Margaret Alexander Edwards Award in 1988, which “recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world” (“Rumble Fish” 217; “Margaret A. Edwards Award”).
Others awards that Hinton has received include the ALA Best Books for Young Adults for each of her novels, the Sue Hefly award, and the School Library Journal Best Books of the Year (“S. E. Hinton”). Hinton leads the movement of authors writing about the ealistic lives of teenagers. She writes stories made with accretion of awareness and and repetition of irony and imagery, avoiding what she refers to as “the ‘problem’ approach” (Wilson 11). Because she avoids writing about problems, that often change, she focuses on writing with character.
This allows her work to remain timeless. Because Hinton discovered her passion for writing during a time in which many began to rebel against gender roles, she decided to take part in the rebellion by writing from the point of view of teenage boys. She gave the spotlight to the realities of he boys who are “abandoned by parents, brutalized by policemen, jailed, stabbed to death, shot to death, burned to death and so routinely beaten to death that they think it’s a drag to have to rush to the hospital for something as trivial as a fractured skull” (Malone).
For several years after the death of her father, a major theme in both Hinton’s life and novels was that of isolation. Likewise, The Motorcycle Boy, who is known for ending organized gangs, disappearing for days at a time, and stealing motorcycles, lives with the same isolation. The narrator’s older brother has been alled The Motorcycle Boy for so long that no one even remembers his real name. Because of his differences, many see him as insane, but his father begs to differ: “Your mother,” he said distinctly [to the narrator, Rusty-James], “is not crazy.
Neither, contrary to popular belief, is your brother [The Motorcycle Boy]. He 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” (115, ch. 1) Few individuals can do anything, and even fewer find nothing to do. Motorcycle Boy is said to be isolated from his peers, yet he has no peers. Partially deaf and color blind, The Motorcycle Boy is even further isolated from the world.
Partially deaf from concussions he received in motorcycle crashes, he goes for long periods of time with only his own thoughts to occupy his time. His color blindness leaves him feeling sorry for himself only once, when he cannot see the magnificent colors of the Siamese fighting fish. When The Motorcycle Boy, in a neighborhood pet store, sees a isplay of Siamese Fighting fish or rumble fish, he tells Russel James, narrator and protagonist, about them, and the store owner validates it with, “That’s right, Rusty-James, he told [Russel James].
Siamese fighting fish. They try to kill each other. If you leaned a mirror against the bowl they’d kill themselves fighting their own reflection” (111, ch. 10). These fish, naturally beautiful and aggressive, must be isolated to prevent them from eating each other. Ironically, it’s not their cannibalistic habits that cause their death, but rather, it is The Motorcycle Boys death that kills the rumble fish.