That Was Then, This Is Now Questions and Answers
by S. E. Hinton

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Compare and contrast Angela and Cathy's families. Do you think their families and home environments make a difference in the way the girls turn out?

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In S. E. Hinton's novel That Was Then, This Is Now, the female leads, Angela and Cathy, both have black hair, good looks, and romantic ties to Bryon, but that is where their similarities end. In fact, their personalities and their attitudes towards life, both of which have been influenced by their families, make them foils for each other.

A foil is a character who is the opposite of another character or contrasts with another character. For example, the warmth, compassion, and kindness that characterize Cathy's parents highlight Angela's cold-heartedness and manipulative ways, all learned from her brothers, Tim and Curly, the neighborhood toughs who rule by fear and intimidation. The Carlson parents have a large and unruly family, but they value each other and help each other, while Angela's family communicate poorly and are harsh with each other.

In fiction , just as in real life, people develop according to their own inborn nature as well as their environments, which nurture different...

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lynnramsson1976 | Student

In S.E. Hinton's novel That Was Then, This is Now, the two main female characters, Angela Shepard and Cathy Carlson, both have dark hair, good looks, and romantic ties to Bryon, but those characteristics are all that they share. Their personalities, which may have been shaped by their families and home environments, are markedly different.

Angela, Bryon's old girlfriend, has two older brothers who have a powerful reputation for violence in their neighborhood. These brothers, Tim and Curly, embody the definition of 'hood,' and they are the family members who appear to have the most influence on Angela. Like Tim and Curly, Angela uses her power in negative ways, like when she tries to exact revenge on Ponyboy Curtis for ignoring her. Angela, for all her beauty, leaves a bad impression on the reader.

In contrast, Cathy, Bryon's current girlfriend, comes from a large and loving family, intact with two parents and many siblings. She is a nurturing character, which is evidenced by her looking after her younger brothers and sisters, as well as her protectiveness over M&M, who is living with the long-term effects of a bad acid trip. Her power is in her compassion and kindness, and when she gets together with Bryon, the reader wants to celebrate their relationship.

Both female characters have serious impact on other characters in the novel and on various plot points, but Angela and Cathy represent different kinds of female power and influence. Angela is characterized as mean and vindictive, like her two brothers, while Cathy is kind and sensitive, much like her younger brother. Their families clearly have influenced their development in significant ways.