The Characters (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Hardened to varying degrees, the novel’s characters are young, self-serving, and immature in their thinking. This loss of moral sensitivities appears to be the result of growing up in an indifferent environment with great socioeconomic disadvantages. The judge and attorneys, meanwhile, come across as automata playing roles and similarly immature in their quest for victory in a battle that is indifferent to truth or justice. The jail scenes are dominated by indifferent and callous brutality. Perhaps it is this indifference that makes the events so chillingly hopeless. The narrator’s diary indicates that he does not see himself as an integral part of the events that surround him.
(The entire section is 109 words.)
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Themes and Characters
"You're young, you're Black, and you're on trial. What else do they need to know?" Miss O'Brien, Steve's lawyer, tells him. She makes it clear that Steve's case will be hard to win, if for no other reason than the common belief that young black males are likely to be guilty of violent crimes. Early on in Monster, Steve suspects that Miss O'Brien thinks the case will be tough to win not only because he is a young black male but because she believes he is guilty of the crime with which he has been charged. Even so, she is smart and cagey and does her best to separate Steve from James King and the other parties involved in the murder. She wants the jury to think that the others were merely passing acquaintances of Steve. She succeeds, but after the acquittal is announced, "STEVE turns toward O'BRIEN as camera closes in and film grows grainier. STEVE spreads his arms to hug O'BRIEN, but she stiffens and turns to pick up her papers from the table before them." Does she see a monster when she looks at Steve?
This troubles Steve. He spends much of the novel wondering whether he is the monster the prosecution would have the jury believe him to be. He insists in his notes on his screenplay that he is not guilty— that what he did was too trivial to amount to being a participant in a robbery and murder. Yet, he has enough common sense to doubt his rationalizations: "It was me who lay on the cot wondering if I was fooling myself." This problem is the crux of...
(The entire section is 565 words.)