Rocket Boys takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War—so to understand Rocket Boys, it’s crucial to understand the Cold War and its ramifications for American society.
Following World War II, the United States—a capitalist, democratic state—and the Soviet Union, or U.S.S.R.—a Communist state—became the two global superpowers. While the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. never directly fought with one another, they came close on many occasions—hence…(read full theme analysis)
Over the course of Rocket Boys, Homer must balance his own needs and ambitions with the desires—and demands—of a group. Homer’s own desires and ambitions are plain from the first chapters of Rocket Boys: he wants to study rockets, study engineering in college, and work for NASA. At first, it seems that these desires are directly opposed to the interests of his community, however, as the people of Coalwood regard Homer either…(read full theme analysis)
As Homer struggles to complete a successful rocket and win a medal at the science fair, he also finds himself in a conflicted relationship with his parents: his father, Homer Sr., and his mother, Elsie. During the course of Rocket Boys, he learns important lessons about the parent-child relationship, and also learns how to balance his desire for love and attention from his parents with the frustrating reality that he’ll never be…(read full theme analysis)
A considerable chunk of Rocket Boys consists of Hickam’s descriptions of how, as a teenager, he went about finding the raw materials he needed to build sophisticated rockets. To get the tin needed to weld a rocket casing, for instance, Homer has to negotiate with Reverend “Little” Richard, who has purchased extra tin for repairing his roof. To get it, Homer has to provide the Reverend with shingles for his roof—and Homer has…(read full theme analysis)