In Monster by Walter Dean Myers, what is the climax?  How does this change the outcome of the novel? 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The climax of Monster is the jury's verdict.  The trial has been the focal point of the novel.  Whether Steve will be found guilty or not guilty has been the driving force of the narrative.  It is the basis for the trial and, at the same time, has also been an essential part of how Steve perceives himself. There has never been a full understanding of whether or not Steve "did it."  In this light, the jury's verdict is the climax of the novel, almost operating as a type of clarifying statement as to whether or not Steve is responsible for the atrocious nature of the crime.

The climax is anticipated in the moments before the jury reads the verdict.  Steve's script has the focus on himself, his mother, the jury, and the entire adversarial system of the legal proceedings hangs on what is read aloud. As the guards move away from him, the climax is achieved when the jury finds Steve not guilty.

This climax changes the outcome of the novel in a couple of ways.  The first is that it helps to create an impact in the reader.  If Steve had been found guilty, then a full reflection about Steve's guilt would have been precluded by the reality of his incarceration.  Yet, the climax of him being found not guilty challenges the reader.  On one hand, Steve's joy is met with the immediacy of lingering questions as to what exactly happened.  The novel's climax is accentuated by his lawyer's reaction to him, as she “stiffens and turns to pick up her papers from the table.”  The grainy stock of the film that Steve uses to depict his narrative is   “nearly broken. It looks like one of the pictures they use for psychological testing, or some strange beast, a monster.”  The climax is one where  the question of “What did she see?” is matched with the reader's questions about his guilt.  The implicit critique of the legal system is evident in that there is no real progression towards absolute truth.  It is merely a question of what was proven, and not a universal condition of veracity. It is in this light where the climax changes the outcome of the novel and its effect on the reader.

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