That Was Then, This is Now

That Was Then, This is Now Metaphors and Similes

Simile - “Mark was in a funny mood. I could tell; I had seen him in that mood before. He was never that way with me, but I’d seen him suddenly turn on people, like a teased lion who’s had enough” (98)

Bryon not only compares Mark’s appearance to a lion, but also his behavior. Mark’s unstable, wild, and predatory behavior is comparable to a lion’s in his feral inability to see human laws.

Simile - “I was always making like Sir Galahad, opening doors for them and complimenting even the homely ones, and I beat out a lot of guys better looking than me and they never could figure out why” (35)

Mike alludes to another historic male figure (as opposed to Lord Byron): the legendary knight Sir Galahad. He compares himself to the chivalrous men of yore, presenting another model of male behavior towards women.

Simile - "Cathy was looking at Mark, and I suddenly felt like I’d swallowed a spoonful of red pepper” (55)

Bryon still has insecurities in his relationships, and after being dumped by Angela for another boy, Bryon watches Cathy’s glances carefully. Although he later realizes that Cathy is not interested in Mark, he is so affected by this brief flash of hatred for Mark (which later becomes a constant reality for Mark), that Bryon has to describe it as vividly as something tasted—something unpleasant tasted.

Simile - “He smiled, like an innocent lion” (75)

Bryon describes Mark’s expression after they find out about Mark’s weekly expeditions in the principal’s car. They reach the consensus that Mark will be all right; that he always gets away with everything. Mark’s smile confirms this point—he is just “doing him,” just doing what he is naturally capable of and good at. However, innocent lion is almost paradoxical, and suggests that Mark’s temperament is unstable.

Simile - Gulf of Mexico “I looked at him, and suddenly it was like seeing someone across a deep pit, someone you couldn’t ever reach. It was like the car had widened into the Gulf of Mexico and I was seeing Mark through a telescope” (106)

At this moment when Cathy—and other issues—has really gotten in between Mark and Bryon’s friendship, the widening gap between them suddenly becomes tangible. Bryon describes the car as an entire ocean, something liquid and swimmable because it is made of water, something that gives life, and yet is unable to be traversed when it is the size of the Gulf of Mexico. The only action that is possible is to watch—hence, looking through a telescope.

Metaphor - “I was the hustler and Mark was the thief” (25)

Although Bryon’s description of his and Mark’s roles as petty criminals are mostly meant to be taken literally, there is still an element of ridiculousness in it that feels metaphoric, since they are both boys and not actual criminals (at least, not yet).

Metaphor - “I had already noted that she wasn’t wearing a boy’s ring around her neck, or any other sign that she was somebody’s personal property” (31)

Bryon’s observations and evaluation of Cathy on their first meeting in the story use the term “personal property” almost sarcastically, and yet also very much seriously. Given Bryon’s preoccupation with women, he is both very attuned to the mark of men on women, but also with attempting to “own” his girlfriends. With respect to Cathy, with whom he falls in love, he is able to finally let go of that possessiveness, and in fact is able to let her eventually go.

Metaphor - “Like we got into those gang fights—it was so important, it was the whole world if we won or lost—and the buddies we had then” (68)

Mark reminisces about how “gang fights were the whole world” when they were younger, and they talk about what brotherhood means, and how people have drifted away. Like their lost brothers, Bryon will soon realize that there is more to the whole world—and real life—than merely gang fights.

Metaphor - The fight had made Mark something of a hero, and the whole story was going around school in various versions, all different” (69)

Toughness is so important in the rough-and-tumble areas of Tulsa that boys (primarily boys) are ranked by their abilities to fight and their willingness to engage in conflict. Mark is a hero because of his intervention in the fight with Ponyboy and Angela’s assailant, but he also just continues to stand out as some sort of hero or legend or leader because of his beauty and his wild love of life.

Metaphor - “She was staring at the ceiling so intently that I glanced up there, just to make sure the answer to the universe wasn’t written across it” (122)

Bryon’s first strange and unpleasant run-in with a hippie woman in the commune is told in this sarcastic, almost mocking tone. He finds the hippies’ ways of life ridiculous, and concerned with things that are too abstract and unimportant.