Bryon is a sixteen-year-old teenage boy living with his unwell mother and his best friend, Mark. He is known for being a bit of a playboy, and yet really deeply falls for Cathy Carlson during the course of the book. While able to pick up girls easily, he can still be insecure about loyalties. He is deeply introspective and reflective, and a hard, diligent worker. He is also a good student. He has dark hair and a sturdy build, and is generally well liked.
Mark, also a sixteen-year-old boy, is Bryon’s best friend and adoptive brother. He saw his parents shoot each other in a fight when he was a child. He was an illegitimate son. He has distinctive golden eyes and blond hair, like a lion. He has a demeanor of disarming innocence and wildness, since he is persuasive and can get away with anything. He also has no regard for laws or rules. He loves Bryon more than anyone in the world, considering him his only family left. However, he also has no sense of morality, and has no problem selling drugs to children. He becomes even more dangerous after he goes to jail at the end of the book.
Cathy is M&M’s older sister, and the two of them are the closest out of the many children in the Carlson family. She went away to private school for a couple of years, and has just come back at the beginning of the book. She has long, dark hair, and gray eyes, and has changed a lot in appearance since leaving. She works at the hospital where Bryon’s mother is recovering, and she strikes up a very serious romance with Bryon. She and Mark do not get along, and this becomes a source of stress for Bryon.
Angela was the last girl Bryon dated before Cathy, and a major point of comparison for their relationships. She also has long, dark hair, described as blue-black, and is so strikingly beautiful that she could “be a movie star” (pg. 109). She dumped Bryon to pursue Ponyboy, and when he ignored her, she tried to use violence to lash out. She is the younger sister of two infamous and notorious hoods in the neighborhood.
Charlie is the twenty-two-year-old proprietor of a local bar near where Bryon and Mark live. They consider him a friend, and Bryon even tries to petition him for a job. While Charlie knows that the boys are minors, he still lets them into the bar, so long as they do not drink. The boys hustle pool there frequently. They admire Charlie because he comes from a bad background not unlike theirs, and has still become a successful businessman. Charlie is kind, but also not someone to mess with. During a pool hustle gone wrong, Charlie defends the boys with his shotgun, but is killed in the process. Bryon continues to feel as though he played a major part in Charlie’s death.
M&M is a thirteen-year-old boy who has been becoming a hippie at the start of the novel. He is nicknamed ‘M&M’ because of his obsession with the candy, and Bryon cannot even remember his actual name. He is Cathy’s younger brother, the second oldest Carlson. He is smart and honest and innocent, but to excess: he is picked on by many in the community, and almost mugged at the beginning of the book. He has strained relations with his parents, particularly his father, and ends up running away and joining a hippie commune, where he accidentally overdoses on LSD.
Mike is a boy around Bryon and Mark’s age living in the hospital room across from Mrs. Douglas. He was beat up unfairly by the members of a black girl’s family after he drove her home and saved her from possible assault. Mike does not hate the people who injured him, and Bryon is very affected by all that Mike has gone through, learning about injustice, love, and hatred obliquely.
Mr. and Mrs. Carlson
Cathy and M&M’s parents. They have many, many children, most of who are young and need the two older ones to babysit (mostly M&M, since Cathy needs to work). Mr. Carlson gives M&M a lot of grief for his long hair and hippie tendencies, and Cathy tells her father not to do so. However, the Carlsons love their children very much, and they are still a very tightly knit family held together by love.
Bryon’s biological mother, and Mark’s adoptive mother. She is beloved by the community, taking in stray cats, knowing everyone’s names, and being generally friendly. Her husband is dead, but readers do not know much about it; she raises the boys as a single mother, and does not dabble much in their lives.
Tim and Curly Shepard/The Shepard Gang
The leaders of the Shepard Gang are Tim and his brother Curly, who are acknowledged as “real hoods” in the bad part of this neighborhood. They beat up Bryon badly for Mark cutting off all the hair of their sister, Angela.
Ponyboy is another boy around Bryon and Mark’s age who is shy and quiet, yet known to be a good fighter. Angela Shepard left Bryon to pursue Ponyboy, but he does not even know that she exists or is pursuing him. In her anger, Angela sends someone after Ponyboy, but the attacker instead ends up hitting Mark, who was trying to resolve the situation. Bryon stops hating Ponyboy because of Angela, and realizes that he is a good kid. After Bryon and Cathy break up, Ponyboy and Cathy start dating.
Ponyboy was the protagonist and narrator of Hinton’s earlier novel, The Outsiders.
Terry is a friend of Mark’s. He is described as “short, round, and a real nut.” Bryon stays over at Terry’s house immediately after he is beat up by the Shepards.
A hippie who gives Bryon and Mark a ride to the hospital to visit their mother. He is actually one of the major Soc gang members from The Outsiders; he was the one most sympathetic to the problems of his poorer peers, and disdainful of his privileged background.
Most likely not his real name. A hippie who lives in the communal house. He is M&M’s “travel agent,” or his contact for acquiring drugs. He is a large man with red hair and facial hair.
Dirty Dave and the Texans
A pair of tough-looking men, who look like ex-cons, comes to hustle pool at Charlie’s one day; one of them refers to himself as ‘Dirty Dave’. They lose to Mark and Bryon at pool, and try to jump them in the alleyway afterwards. When Charlie comes to the rescue, shooting ensues and they kill Charlie. They are sentenced to life in prison afterwards.
That Was Then, This is Now Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for That Was Then, This is Now is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
I think broken families is the main theme here. Mark and Bryon talk about what it means to have real family. Bryon reveals to readers that Mark’s parents are not only dead, but he was also an illegitimate child.