That Was Then, This Is Now Characters


Baby Freak
See M&M

Bryon’s Mother
See Mrs. Douglas

Cathy Carlson
Cathy Carlson is Bryon’s girlfriend; it is out of his love for her and concern for her brother M&M that Bryon decides to turn Mark in for dealing drugs. Cathy is a shy, innocent teenager, who comes back from private school when she runs out of money. Unlike Bryon’s ex-girlfriend, Angela, Cathy does not get jealous and is a good influence on Bryon. This influence puts her at odds with Mark, who feels he and Bryon are starting to grow apart. This becomes more noticeable after Charlie dies saving Bryon and Mark and Cathy understands Bryon’s feelings of guilt, whereas Mark does not. Cathy worries that her brother, M&M, whom she loves very much, is smoking marijuana and, since he is so trusting, may end up taking LSD as well. She says that M&M is not happy because he gets so much harassment at home over his hair, and so M&M has started hanging around other places. Cathy is distraught when M&M runs away, and she and Bryon drive up and down the Ribbon every night for a week, looking for her brother.

After Bryon gets beaten up by the Shepards, Cathy comes to see him at home, where he lets her know he has got a lead on M&M’s whereabouts. When Bryon gets better, Cathy goes with him to the hippie house where M&M has been staying. She is horrified when she sees the effects the LSD has had on her brother but still finds the strength to call her father and drive M&M to the hospital. Cathy is distraught when the doctor tells them that M&M may never be the same but is comforted by the love and affection that Bryon shows to her throughout this ordeal. This makes it all the more difficult for Cathy the next day, when she goes to see Bryon, after hearing that Bryon turned Mark in to the police for dealing drugs. Bryon is no longer in love with her, and she can tell. They never speak again, and she starts dating Ponyboy Curtis, although M&M says that she liked Bryon the most.

Mr. Jim Carlson
Jim Carlson is Cathy’s dad, whose constant criticisms of his son, M&M, help to drive M&M out of the house and into using drugs. Bryon first meets Mr. Carlson when he picks up Cathy for their date, and he can see how he antagonizes M&M over the length of his hair and because he is flunking math and gym. When M&M leaves home, Mr. Carlson thinks that it is a phase and that he will be back, but as Cathy projects, he does not. Mr. Carlson likes Bryon, especially after Bryon helps find M&M and gets him to the hospital. Mr. Carlson is a wreck when he sees the effects that the drugs have had on his son and is concerned that the news will devastate his wife.

M&M Carlson
M&M Carlson, Cathy’s thirteen-year-old brother and one of Bryon’s friends, has a bad experience with LSD, which motivates Bryon to turn in Mark for dealing drugs. Even M&M’s family call him by this nickname, which he earned for his addiction to the candy of the same name. M&M is the consummate hippie. He wears his hair long, wears an old, loose-fitting army jacket everywhere he goes, and has a metal peace symbol on a rawhide cord around his neck. He is extremely trusting, and even tough characters like Charlie think he is nice, if a little weird. He is thankful that Bryon and Mark save him from getting thoroughly beaten by Curly Shepard but is frustrated at Mark’s hypocritical suggestion that they beat somebody else up that same night. M&M tips off Bryon that his sister is home, which helps Bryon figure out who Cathy is when he first meets her.

M&M is not happy at home, mainly because his father constantly criticizes him about his long hair and his bad grades in math and gym. As a result, he starts hanging around more often with other hippies, who introduce him to marijuana. After M&M gets fed up at home and runs away, he moves into a hippie house, where he earns the name “Baby Freak,” since he is several years younger than everybody else in the house. It is here that he experiments with LSD, a much more potent drug. When Bryon first goes to the house with Mark, M&M is not there, but somebody else says that he is “flying” and that he is going to “crash.” Later, when Bryon takes Cathy to the house, they find him huddled in the corner of a room, in the aftermath of a massive LSD-induced hallucination, in which spiders have been eating him and colors have been talking to him. When Bryon runs into M&M at the end of the story, he tells Bryon the long-term effects of his LSD trip—he may have flashbacks, he might not be able to have normal children, and his grades are not good anymore, since he cannot remember much. Also, M&M does not want kids, which is different from before his acid trip, when he used to say he wanted a large family. M&M also tells Bryon that Cathy is dating Ponyboy Curtis but that he knows that Cathy liked Bryon the best. This news, however, does not affect the emotionally detached Bryon.

Mrs. Carlson
Mrs. Carlson is Cathy’s mother, who worries that her husband is giving their son, M&M, too much grief about his long hair. When M&M is at the hospital getting treated for his LSD hallucinations, her husband worries how she will take the news.

See Mark

Mike Chambers
Mike Chambers is the beaten-up teenager in the hospital, whose story and viewpoint help to inspire Bryon not to hate others and to stop the endless cycle of violence. Mike belongs to a gang from a different neighborhood, and one night some of his gang members start picking on a young black woman. Mike sticks up for her and then gives her a ride home, but she still tells her friends to kill Mike, and they beat him very badly. Mike tells Bryon and Mark that he does not hold it against the woman.

Charlie is a twenty-two-year-old bar owner, who dies while saving Bryon and Mark from two Texans whom they have hustled. Charlie is the older brother of one of Bryon’s ex-girlfriends, and he sometimes gives Bryon and Mark Cokes on credit at his bar. His tough reputation ensures that Bryon and Mark always pay him back. It is this same reputation that has earned him respect from both the police and Charlie’s tough customers. Charlie tries to warn Bryon and Mark that they should be careful whom they hustle, but they do not listen. Charlie receives his draft notice for the army, to go fight in Vietnam, but in the end, they do not take him because he has a police record. He gets this joyous news shortly before he dies. The police are impressed with Charlie’s heroic act in saving Bryon and Mark and give the two boys Charlie’s car. Later in the story, Bryon takes a trip to Charlie’s grave, where he thanks his dead friend for saving his life and letting him use his car.

Ponyboy Curtis
Ponyboy Curtis is one of Mark’s friends, although Bryon holds a grudge against him because Curtis had the good sense to stay away from Angela Shepard. Actually, as Bryon learns, Curtis, a quiet and shy teenager, had no idea that Angela was interested in...

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That Was Then, This Is Now Themes and Characters

Bryon Douglas, the sixteen-year-old narrator of That Was Then, This Is Now, is caught up in a sequence of events that forces him to question his beliefs and relationships. As he examines his attitudes, he becomes more responsible, less willing to spend time looking for fights or parties, and less tolerant of his friend Mark's noncommittal, unquestioning attitude. Hinton portrays, Bryon as a complex character; sexist, unethical, and often violent, he resembles an anti-hero more than he does a traditional hero. Mark, the novel's other central character, is described in the first chapter as a friendly lion and in the last chapter as "an impatient, dangerous, caged" lion. This change reflects Mark's transformation from a happy-go-lucky kid who "can get away with anything" to a bitter juvenile delinquent on his way to the state prison.

Among Bryon and Mark's peers, the most important are M&M and Cathy. M&M is a thirteen-year-old hippie living "in a hood's part of town." He suffers ridicule and, occasionally, physical abuse at the hands of the "hoods." Although M&M is of above-average intelligence, his father criticizes his hair, his clothing, and the "C" he earns in gym class. M&M finally runs away and has a bad reaction to the drug LSD, which permanently impairs his mental abilities, changing him from a trusting, 1336 That Was Then, This Is Now innocent child into a cynical and suspicious person. Cathy, quite straight herself, is shocked when she learns that Bryon has smoked marijuana and is worried that M&M is becoming involved with drugs. Most important, Cathy makes Bryon question his values, and he changes as a result. Another influential character is Charlie, who acts as a big brother figure to Bryon and Mark. He gives advice, lends Bryon his car, and is generally concerned about the boys' welfare. He tries to teach them responsibility and self-respect but never preaches. Killed while trying to protect the boys from two men they have hustled, Charlie continues to influence Bryon's thinking, even after his death.


(The entire section is 844 words.)