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Literature / That Was Then, This Is Now

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"You know what the crummiest feeling you can have is? To hate the person you love the best in the world."
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Mark and Bryon are best friends, the closest thing to a brother either of them has ever had. Both are sixteen-year-old greasers— pool hustlers, hoods. Mark can get away with anything, and Bryon can lie about anything. They're the perfect team. Over the year that passes, they come to 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 gets 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 Bryon had estimated him to be. Should Bryon turn in someone closer than a brother to him?

That Was Then, This Is Now is a 1971 coming of age novel by S. E. Hinton, acclaimed author of The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. The book gives a darkly realistic portrayal of greaser culture in 1960s Tulsa, Oklahoma. A film adaptation was made in 1985, directed by Christopher Cain and starring Emilio Estevez (who also wrote the screenplay) as Mark and Craig Sheffer as Bryon.

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Tropes used by the novel:

  • Downer Ending: Bryon turns in Mark to the police. Mark goes to prison and become a sociopath due to being betrayed by the only person he loved. Bryon is left wondering if he did the right thing and where he's going to go from here.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, Bryon 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 Bryon. 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.
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  • The Sociopath: It's implied at the end that this is what Mark became without Bryon's influence to keep him in check any longer.
  • The '60s: The novel takes place circa 1965-66.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Mark cuts all of Angela's curly long hair to the scalp off while she is passed out drunk.

Alternative Title(s): That Was Then This Is Now

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