Verbal Irony - Mark quoting Bryon back to him: “That was then, this is now” (from pg. 69 and pg. 158)
When Mark is hurt—and thus incapacitated—from Angela’s attack, he and Bryon talk about how times have changed. Bryon uses a line that is then used for the book’s title, to explain the nostalgia and strangeness that they feel: “‘The difference is,’ I said evenly, ‘that was then, and this is now,’” says Bryon. The second time Bryon is seeing Mark incapacitated is when Mark has gone to jail. Mark ironically quotes Bryon’s words back to him when Bryon attempts to apologize for what he has done. The words now carry a different and even harsher meaning; before they referred mostly to nostalgia about things the boys did together; now they take into account Bryon’s actions intra-relationship—the things he has done to Mark.
Situational Irony - The hippies' usage of drugs; freedom (122-23)
On Bryon’s first visit to the hippie house with Mark, he is disgusted by the hippies’ illusion of freedom through drugs. A “fat chick” says to Bryon: “There isn’t any ‘letting’ here…We’re free” (pg. 123). Bryon’s descriptions of all the other hippies, as well as their appearances, suggests otherwise. He says of one of the girls, “Even sitting up she looked dead” (pg. 123). This prompts Bryon to afterwards consider his own degree of being “hung up.” “I don’t think I’d ever consider myself really free” (pg. 123), he says, which readers find true through all the socioeconomic and other restrictions that the teenagers experience.
Dramatic Irony - Teenyboppers (100)
On the Ribbon, Bryon once sees a bunch of “little twelve- and thirteen-year-old teenyboppers make fools of themselves” (pg. 100), and realizes that he was once just as blithely foolish and performative. He looks back from his sixteen-year-old’s perspective and finds them silly, and then he projects again, wondering if, “when I got to be twenty, I would think how stupid I was at sixteen” (pg. 100). This is ironic and almost a little saddening, given that Bryon’s narrator is actually telling his sixteen-year-old story from sometime in the future (although at an undisclosed age).
Situational Irony - Hurting someone different from you (23)
After Mark and Bryon save M&M from the Shepard Gang, Mark asks Bryon whether he wants to see any more action, and proposes jumping a black man standing at an intersection. The irony of this senseless violence is pointed out explicitly by M&M, who cries: “You make me sick! 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. You think I’m weird—well you’re the weird ones” (pg. 23). This statement strikes Bryon very hard, but Mark remains unaffected (this adds to Bryon’s eventual understanding of Mark’s character). Bryon realizes that not only would that violence have been senseless, but that M&M is right in pointing out the irony of Mark’s turning around and proposing to attack another random stranger.
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.