Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Bryon and Mark are best friends. They have lived together with Bryon’s mother ever since Mark’s parents shot each other in a drunken brawl. The boys hang out at Charlie’s Bar and earn money by hustling pool. Charlie tells the pair that M&M, a younger Hippie boy, is looking for them. Bryon and Mark find M&M in time to stop Curly Shepard and his Greaser gang from beating M&M up. The “Hippies” are a new group and the lines between the two former groups, the “Greasers” and “Socs,” are becoming blurred.
The following day, Bryon and Mark visit Bryon’s mother in the hospital. While there, Bryon meets Cathy Carlson, M&M’s older sister, who works in the snack bar. Bryon is taken with Cathy and hopes to see her again. Bryon and Mark also visit Mike Chambers, a boy Bryon’s mother befriends. Mike is recovering from a beating after being falsely accused of harming a young African American girl. Mike tells Bryon and Mark what happened, how he actually saved the girl from being harassed by a group of whites. Mike drove the girl home and his car was surrounded by a group of African American kids. They pulled him from the car and nearly beat him to death when the girl lied, claiming Mike hurt her. Despite the beating, Mike does not hate African Americans. When he thinks about it from the girl’s viewpoint, he can almost understand why she lied. After the visit ends, Bryon and Mark discuss Mike’s misfortune. Mark does not share...
(The entire section is 880 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In many ways, That Was Then, This Is Now is a sequel to The Outsiders, for the setting in this second Hinton novel is similar, and some of the same characters appear. It is a few years later, however, and the concerns in this adolescent world have changed.
Mark Jennings, fifteen, has been living with Bryon Douglas and his mother since Mark’s parents killed each other in a drunken fight seven years before. Mark and Bryon, the sixteen-year-old narrator of the novel, are as close as brothers—and perhaps too close. As the story unravels, it becomes apparent that Mark has been dealing drugs, and it is those drugs that permanently damage M&M, the brother of Bryon’s girlfriend, Cathy Carlson. Bryon grows in the course of the novel, especially in his relationship with Cathy, but Mark does not. When Bryon discovers the truth about Mark, he turns him over to the police, and the younger boy is sentenced to five years in the state reformatory.
Bryon does not have the consolation of Cathy; feeling guilty over what he has done to Mark, Bryon pushes her away, and she is going out with an older Ponyboy Curtis at novel’s end. The novel thus concludes on a sad and somber note: Bryon wishes that he were a kid again, “when I had all the answers.” He has left the security of childhood and paid a high price for his growth to maturity, losing his two best friends in the process. There are, he has learned, few easy answers to...
(The entire section is 685 words.)
That Was Then, This Is Now chronicles the deterioration of a friendship between two young men who grow up and away from one another. Mark, Bryon's best friend since early childhood, has lived with Bryon and his mother ever since his own parents killed each other in a domestic dispute. The book describes the year when Bryon, who is sixteen, begins dating Cathy and has less time to spend with Mark. Fearful that the nature of their friendship is changing, Mark tries desperately to arrest the process of Bryon's maturation. Because Bryon's mother has had an operation and is unable to work, both boys are struggling to make ends meet, and the method Mark chooses to raise money—drug dealing—triggers one of the final rifts in the friendship.
Although drugs provide the catalyst for the book's plot and outcome, this is not solely a book about drug abuse. In the end, its central themes are the mutability of friendship and the limits of love. Realistic and haunting, the book is a favorite with young adults.
(The entire section is 176 words.)
That Was Then, This Is Now begins when the narrator, Bryon Douglas, and his foster brother, Mark, both teenagers, go to one of their favorite hangouts, Charlie’s Bar, a rough pool hall where they often try to hustle people for money. Later, they find their hippie friend, a kid with the nickname M&M, who tells them that his sister, Cathy, is home from private school. They hang out for a while, but M&M gets bored and leaves. Mark and Bryon follow, just in time to stop some gang members from beating up M&M. Mark, Bryon, and M&M start walking home, and Mark suggests they beat up somebody else. M&M yells at them for their hypocrisy, and Bryon reflects on what M&M has said.
The next day, Mark and Bryon go to the hospital to see Bryon’s mother, who has just had an operation and who says they should visit a beatenup kid across the hall. Bryon goes downstairs to the hospital’s snack bar, where he meets Cathy, M&M’s sister who is back in town, and asks her out. Bryon talks with the severely beaten-up boy, Mike Chambers, who tells Bryon that he got beaten up after he saved a young black woman from being harassed by his own gang members. Mike drove the woman home, and when he dropped her off, she told her friends to kill him. Mike tells Bryon that he does not hold it against the woman, and Bryon sees some merit in his point of view, although Mark does not....
(The entire section is 1362 words.)