In That Was Then, This is Now, what does Mike and his story in Chapter 2 symbolize about the book?
What the story of Mike helps to reinforce in this coming-of-age novel is the way that casual and meaningless violence permeates throughout the lives of Byron and Mark and their friends. Mike helps a black girl, saving her from a group of white males, only to take her back to her home and get beaten up by her black friends for his pains. This of course reminds the reader of another similar incident in the novel, when Mark and Byron save M&M from being beaten up by Curly Shepard and his gang only to see them planning to jump a black guy later on. Note what he says to them:
You just rescued me from some guys who were going to beat me up because I’m different from them, and now you’re going to beat up someone because he’s different from you.
Violence is something that is so natural and such a part of their world. However, it is also this violence that Byron continues to question more and more throughout the novel, especially when he begins to see the fruit of it, when Mark is hit on the side of the head with a bottle. The story of Mike thus represents the kind of casual violence that exists in the world of these characters.