That Was Then, This Is Now


Symbols and Themes



More than anything, That Was Then, This Is Now is a coming-of-age story; as such, it focuses on both the good and the painful aspects of change. At the beginning of the novel, Bryon and Mark are the closest of friends and there is a carefree simplicity to their lives. As the novel progresses, however, their actions begin to have more of an impact on those around them, and they are both forced to deal with the inevitability of change. Each of the boys responds differently: Mark clings to the past, while Bryon accepts the changes more readily, and even embraces them to a degree. At the center of the plot is the literal change in the relationship between the two boys. They love each other like brothers at the beginning; by the end, Bryon feels as if Mark might kill him if he could. Throughout, the novel explores the theme of change as a necessary, and often painful, part of life.

Right and wrong

As a part of the process of growing up, Bryon often explores the concept of right and wrong. He draws distinctions between things that are morally wrong and things that are wrong because they are illegal, such as stealing. While Bryon does not personally steal very often because he’s afraid of getting caught, he doesn’t judge Mark for stealing, since he considers it a necessary part of survival. Bryon also often points out that Mark literally does not have a concept of right or wrong, whether morally or legally speaking. Mark considers everything a “game” and enjoys getting away with things. This inability to discern right and wrong forms the centerpiece of Bryon’s betrayal of Mark to the police at the end of the novel. Because of what Bryon has just witnessed with M&M, he feels that turning Mark in is the “right” thing to do. Later, however, he questions this choice in light of how bad incarceration is for Mark. The novel explores the theme of right and wrong as a complicated notion, not always static or easily...

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