That Was Then, This is Now

That Was Then, This is Now Literary Elements


Realistic Fiction/Historical Fiction (Young Adult Fiction)

Setting and Context

Tulsa, Oklahoma in the 1960s

Narrator and Point of View

First-person narration delivered by Bryon Douglas, who is looking back on incidents of his life from a later point in time.

Tone and Mood

Thoughtful, reflective, realistic, gritty, and at times a bit achy. Bryon is an astute and observational young man who picks up slight signals from people and the environments around him, and in turn reflects a lot on himself and how he relates to others. He frequently digresses into character analyses of himself, or even more commonly, on other people and interpersonal relationships. These sensitive contemplations balance out the underlying grittiness of the book’s story and setting.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Bryon is the protagonist; there are no clear antagonists until Mark, his best friend, hates him at the end of the story.

Major Conflict

Bryon and Mark begin growing apart as adulthood begins to come upon them; when Bryon finds that Mark has been selling illegal drugs, he must make a quick and difficult decision about how to treat the situation.


In one moment, Bryon calls the cops on Mark for selling drugs.


In That was Then, This is Now, foreshadowing usually occurs when a larger theme or concept is about to be brought in, rather than foreshadowing of events themselves. For example, Mark’s idea of jumping the black man in the first chapter (pg. 23) foreshadows the problem of racism and the black/white divide that Mike later brings up in the hospital (starting pg. 35).
Another instance is when Bryon deliberates over Mark’s words about “if anybody ever hurt me like that I’d hate them for the rest of my life” (pg. 42), where Bryon’s narration shifts into the future to say that he has been thinking about these words until he thinks he is going crazy. Clearly something will happen between them that will make these words relevant and real to their friendship.




M&M mistakes Bryon’s name for “Byron,” like the poet Lord Byron. M&M asks Bryon, “Were you named after the lord?” (pg. 16), to which Mark curiously asks, “Was there a Lord Byron?...What’d this guy do, anyway?” (Pg. 17.) In response, Bryon says, “Can’t tell you in front of the kid” (pg. 17), and proceeds to illuminate the similarities in his practices with women with Lord Byron’s: “I had a rep as a lady-killer—a hustler. I kept up the old Lord Byron tradition in one way” (pg. 17).


See Imagery section.


“Innocent lion” (75) is a paradoxical description of Mark, since lions are vicious and prideful and powerful, not innocent. This description of Mark shows that not only is he wild and animalistic, but also that this is really who he is—there is no pretense. It demonstrates that he is unstable, and that this ironic nature cannot go on for too long.


After Mark is beaten up by Angela’s assailant at the school dance (pg. 60-64), Bryon stays with him all night, chatting with him. Mark was hit by accident, taking the blow for Ponyboy, the real target. This situation is reflected—mirrored—again, later, when Bryon is beat up by the Shepards, and Mark stays with him all night (pg. 129). Bryon was beaten up by the Shepards who mistakenly think that he cut off Angela’s hair; he takes this beating for Mark.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

“Behind bars” (151) is an example of metonymy. In this case, “bars” is used as a substitute for “jail,” and is more metonymy than it is synecdoche, since the bars are an actual constituent of the “jail."


“I listened to the colors and they were screaming too,” (140) says M&M while he is on his bad trip. He personifies the colors, and readers wonder if this has to do with the M&M candies he eats, as well as the name of his “travel agent”: 'Red'.