Literature / That Was Then, This Is Now

Mark and Byron are best friends, the closest thing to a brother either of them ever had. Both are sixteen-year-old greasers— pool hustlers, hoods. Mark can get away with anything, and Byron can lie about anything. They're the perfect team. Over the year that passes, they see just how rough life treats the poor kids like them. The owner of the bar where they hustle pool at is shot. An innocent guy beaten half to death. Drugs show their effect on a child once intelligent and sensitive. Worst of all, Mark has turned out to be a completely different person than Byron had estimated him to be. Should Byron turn in someone closer than a brother to him?

That Was Then, This Is Now is a 1971 novel by S. E. Hinton, acclaimed author of The Outsiders. The book gives a darkly realistic portrayal of greasers in the early seventies.

Tropes used by the novel:

  • Downer Ending: Byron turns in Mark to the police. Mark goes to prison and become a sociopath due to being betrayed by the only person he loved. Byron is left wondering if he did the right thing and where he's going to go from here.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, Byron says in his narration that Angela would look beautiful even with all her hair cut off—as Mark actually does later.
  • Gray Eyes: M&M's eyes are big and grey, used to play up his wide-eyed, serious trust.
  • Lack of Empathy: Part of the reason Mark can get away with so much is because he does not care about anyone but Byron. He completely disregards all authority and is unfeeling and unmoved by things happening.
  • Pervert Dad: Angela's husband's dad "slaps her bottom".
  • Sharpdressed Man: Mark is said to always know what to wear even though he doesn't seem to care.
  • The Sociopath: It's implied at the end that this is what happened to Mark without Byron's influence to keep him in check any longer.
  • The Cameo: Ponyboy (The Outsiders) makes a cameo in the book.
    • So does Tim Shepard.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Mark cuts all of Angela's curly long hair to the scalp off while she is passed out drunk.