Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
That Was Then, This Is Now chronicles the experiences of Bryon, the first-person narrator, and Mark, his best friend and foil, as they grow up in a tough, low-income neighborhood during the turbulent 1960’s. Charlie’s Bar, where the novel’s flashback begins, provides the setting for much of the action, and Bryon’s frequent foreshadowing comments create a tone of expectation and foreboding. The opening chapter moves quickly to a scene of violence, as members of the bullying Shepard gang jump M&M. Bryon and Mark rescue him, but M&M’s victimization continues throughout the novel, reinforcing S. E. Hinton’s depiction of the lack of justice on the streets, as does the story told by hospital patient Mike Chambers, a white youth who is beaten by black toughs when a girl he tries to rescue falsely identifies him as an attacker. Bryon understands why Mike does not hate black people as a result of his beating, but Mark considers him “stupid” for trying to help.
Despite their bond, Bryon and Mark have distinctly different ethical systems; Mark is on probation for hot-wiring cars, yet he ironically steals the principal’s car each day in order to meet his probation officer. Talking his way out of that situation, Mark leads a seemingly charmed life; Bryon marvels at Mark’s ability to get away with anything and admires his lionlike beauty and daring resourcefulness. For example, when Bryon and Mark owe Charlie three dollars, and Bryon worries about paying the bill before Charlie beats it out of them, Mark conveniently picks three dollars from the pocket of one of M&M’s assailants. Mark rationalizes his actions, and, when Bryon’s mother is hospitalized, Mark brings home money that Bryon suspects is either stolen or poker winnings. Since they cannot live without it, however, Bryon asks no questions.
While Mark seeks quick, dangerous solutions to their financial crisis, Bryon gets a job at a supermarket bagging groceries and develops a serious relationship with M&M’s sister, Cathy. The divergent reactions of the boys to the increasing tension...
(The entire section is 858 words.)
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Compare and Contrast
Topics for Discussion
Ideas for Reports and Papers
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Daly, Jay. Presenting S. E. Hinton. Boston: Twayne, 1989.
Donelson, Kenneth L., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Literature for Today’s Young Adults. 3d ed. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1989.
Mills, Randall K. “The Novels of S. E. Hinton: Springboard to Personal Growth for Adolescents.” Adolescence 22 (Fall, 1987): 641-646.
Stanek, Lou Willett. A Teacher’s Guide to the Paperback Editions of the Novels of S. E. Hinton. New York: Dell, 1975.
(The entire section is 66 words.)