That Was Then, This is Now

That Was Then, This is Now Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7


Bryon goes with Cathy to tell her parents that M&M has run off, and their father says that he is merely going through a “stage” and will come back the next day. Bryon notices that Cathy and M&M’s numerous other siblings are all crying about M&M’s running away; he realizes that their family, while very poor, still loves each other very much. Bryon becomes very concerned for M&M, but Mark tells him not to worry. Bryon feels as though an emotional chasm has opened between him and Mark, now palpable.
M&M does not come home, even though Bryon and Cathy go up and down the Ribbon for a week looking for him. Bryon gets a job at the supermarket, and Mark also starts steadily bringing in money—Bryon is not sure where he is getting it, but he and his mother are in no place to complain about money coming in. One night, Mark and Bryon go goofing around together again, just like they used to. They go to the Ribbon to pick up girls and show off their driving. Suddenly, they see Angela Shepard and her friends. Bryon pushes through to see Angela, who is very drunk and cries into Bryon’s shirt. Mark convinces her to hop into their car, where she and Bryon reminisce. Mark takes them to the liquor store, and comes back with some rum and Coke, and Angela tells them about how terrible her life is, and how much she hates her husband. Bryon again compares her and her situation to Cathy and Cathy’s family, and how the latter family still has love for each other. Angela passes out, and Mark cuts off all of her beautiful dark hair. He says it is revenge for how Angela set up a trap for Ponyboy—the incident in which Mark got hit and could have died. They drop off Angela and her hair on her front lawn.
Mark and Bryon go home, and Bryon has gotten very drunk from the rum. They talk about Bryon’s changing feelings about the world—Bryon is again thinking about Mike, the boy in the hospital, and links Charlie’s death to Mike’s misfortunes. Bryon realizes that Mark is unaffected by all of the terrible things that happen to him; that Mark only cares about Bryon. Bryon, on the other hand, is emotional and sensitive, and cannot believe when Mark when he says, “nothing bad has ever happened to me” (pg. 112). Mark reveals that his parents shot each other over him—over his illegitimacy, demonstrated by his strange eye color. After Bryon expresses his sadness and concern over M&M, Mark also reveals that he knows where M&M is, and that the boy is okay. Bryon asks Mark to take him to see M&M soon.


At the Carlsons’, Cathy and her father argue over M&M again. Mr. Carlson says that “M&M…is a sensible kid” (pg. 104), and Cathy cries, “Then why didn’t you ever tell him so?” (Pg. 105.) This is again an examination of how ineffective spoken words/communication can be. What Mr. Carlson says does not really reflect what he feels, and vice versa; what M&M perceives from Mr. Carlson’s words and general feelings is yet another layer of interpretation.
When Bryon expresses his worries for M&M to Mark, Mark brushes it off, and brings back old memories of what Bryon and Mark used to do together. Bryon says that “Yeah, but M&M is just a kid,” and Mark rebuts: “So are we. Nothing bad happens to you when you’re a kid” (pg. 106). The conception that they are still children, on Mark’s part, is what differentiates Mark and Bryon. The difference which Bryon himself alluded to earlier in the book—that he was changing and Mark wasn’t—is the difference of growing up. Bryon feels as though he is “seeing Mark through a telescope” (pg. 106). The image of the telescope brings to mind the question of perspective, and perhaps also the way M&M asked the older boys to hold the bag of M&M candies to their eyes. A telescope has two ends, and provides very different views from either side; however, there is only one “correct” side to it—and humans are only allowed to view others from one side, one location.
Although as a poor boy growing up in a violent neighborhood, Bryon has always been forced to confront conventional “adulthood” head-on, the pressures of growing independence and the presence of real traumas take their toll on Bryon. Mostly, he is concerned with the emotional vulnerability of adulthood and of humanity, in general, questioning: “How come things always happen like that? Seems like you let your defenses down for one second and, man, you get it. Pow! Care about somebody, give a damn for another person, and you get blasted. How comes it’s like that?” (pg. 112). The usage of the word “defenses” and “blasted” and the idea of caring for someone else all interrogate the larger Vietnam War that is going on, and how even in small interpersonal situations, emotional wars are always being waged.