Is the book Monster based on a true story?

No, Monster is not based on one specific true story. However, one could say that Monster reflects the general realities of America’s prejudiced and biased justice system. Steve’s case might be connected to true cases of Black teens who were accused of crimes that they didn’t commit. Additionally, some of Steve’s traits and troubles could be connected to those of Walter Dean Myers himself.

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The book Monster by Walter Dean Myers is not based on a true story, for there never actually was a sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon who got himself entangled with bunch of neighborhood crooks and ended up on trial for felony murder. The details of the book are fictional.

However, that being...

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The book Monster by Walter Dean Myers is not based on a true story, for there never actually was a sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon who got himself entangled with bunch of neighborhood crooks and ended up on trial for felony murder. The details of the book are fictional.

However, that being said, what Myers depicts has and does actually happen in real life. Good kids find themselves in with the wrong crowd and get led down wrong paths every day. They are convinced to participate in acts that they know are wrong, and they put themselves at risk by getting into trouble.

Further, trials like this one also happen all the time. In the story, the prosecutor presents Steve as a monster for his alleged role in the murder. Considering the role Steve might actually have played (he might have gone into the drugstore to check for cops, but he was not present during the robbery or murder), this label is over the top, as is the charge of felony murder. Yet the prosecutor is trying to play on the jury's emotions rather than their intelligence. This actually happens in many trials.

The defense attorney counters by trying to portray Steve as a good kid. Steve realizes that the facts of the case take second place to perceptions and sentiments. What he appears to be is more important than who he actually is before the court of law. This, too, is true to life in many trials.

It is also true that guilty people try to cut deals and skew their testimony to keep themselves out of jail, like Osvaldo Cruz does in the novel. The lawyers for the other defendants would rather throw Steve to the wolves, too, if it makes their clients look better. This, too, is part of real-life courtroom drama.

Finally, the novel shows how a person's own self-image can be affected by the opinions of others. Steve has never considered himself a monster. He knows that deep down, he is a good person who loves his family and wants to use his creativity to inspire others. Yet the label “monster” refuses to leave him even five months after the trial. He is afraid that the prosecutor was right and that his own attorney agreed with her. Steve now struggles to discover who he really is.

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One might say that Monster is based on many true stories, though there is no single specific model. The essential story of Steve Harmon is as follows. Steve is a decent boy who has grown up in a bad neighborhood. Life as a criminal has no appeal for him, and he avoids it as much as possible. However, he cannot completely avoid contact with the hardened criminals who surround him. Because of this, he is treated as a monster and shunned by society and even by those closest to him.

The above description must apply to any number of teenage boys. Myers deliberately leaves the question of Steve's technical guilt or innocence somewhat vague. It appears likely that he was legally guilty of complicity in the robbery of the liquor store, having been forced into taking this role. However, he has nothing to do with the murder and is clearly not morally culpable.

Myers is writing in the grand tradition of the novel by using fiction to tell a story that is essentially true in moral and psychological terms. Within this fictional construct, the prosecutor, Sandra Petrocelli, is telling a story which is manifestly untrue. She constructs a tale of an inhumane monster, who must be incarcerated for the good of society. It is partly for the purpose of combatting this common and inaccurate stereotype that Monster was written.

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Walter Dean Myers’ Monster is not based on a specific true story. Steve Harmon’s story doesn’t appear to directly come from the real story of a Black teen who was tied to a robbery and then put on trial for murder.

However, one could claim that Monster reflects the reality of the American justice system and the truth about its biases and prejudices. While Steve’s case does not appear to have an exact correlation to a real-life case, you could argue that Steve’s painful experience with America’s courts and jails correlates to the true, terrible experiences of other Black teens.

Many Black teens have been locked up and put on trial for crimes they didn’t commit. For instance, Steve’s case might be seen as relating to the Central Park Five. In 1989, five Black and Latino teens were accused of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. Like Steve, the five teens were innocent and were presented in inhumane terms. They were labeled “savages,” “animals,” and “human mutations.” However, unlike Steve, the five innocent teens were found guilty.

If you read Myers’ memoir Bad Boy or review articles on him, you might see a link between Steve’s story and Myers’ real-life experiences. Both experienced trouble as teens; and both were deemed “monsters.”

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