In Monster by Walter Dean Myers, what are some details about prison life that most notably affect Steve?

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agrinwald eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a relentless brutality in the prison system that terrifies Steve Harmon. Especially since Steve is a young man, if not still a boy, he is particularly affected by the violence, hatred, and sexual assault that takes place in the prison. Also, because of Steve's innocence (he is improperly accused of murder by association) the world of the prison seems particularly terrifying to him. Whereas many of the other prisoners may be actual criminals, and some of them violent criminals, the cruel world of the prison may seem less shocking to them. Yet, with the young, naive Steve, it is an entirely different world altogether.

Steve feels as though he's being untrue to himself in prison. He is an intelligent and respectful young man, yet being in prison doesn't allow him to be this way. In prison, he has to act particularly strong, for the weak men are often beaten and/or raped. Steve consequently always feels on-guard, and he always feels as though he's acting. At night, he hears the horrible sounds of the prison (the violence, the moaning, the crying, etc.), and it is at night he feels most alone. He is suffocated by the vast, dark world that surrounds him, and having no true companion in prison isolates him entirely.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Steve Harmon describes the horrors of prison throughout the novel Monster and most notably is disturbed about the ongoing violence that takes place in the jail. In the Prologue of the novel, Steve mentions that someone was hit in the face with a tray during breakfast. There are several other scenes that depict the violent environment, including Steve hearing inmates raping another prisoner and a brawl that takes place during Sunday church service. The constant threat of violence scares Steve and is the major cause of his anxiety. Steve also finds it difficult to live in an environment surrounded by strangers. Steve expresses his loneliness throughout the novel and struggles to identify with the other prisoners. Steve also mentions how hard it is to act tough all the time. He cannot be himself in prison and is forced to walk around with a scowl to make himself appear tough in order to be protected. Between the constant threat of violence, loneliness, and psychological challenges, Steve Harmon's experience in prison is terrifying and difficult.