Monster Questions and Answers
by Walter Dean Myers

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What does Steve Harmon use to show events that happened before the trial?

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Kristin Pasculle eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Steve Harmon uses a screenplay to show events that happened before the trial. A screenplay is a script that includes acting and scene instructions. He uses screenplay as a way to deal with his feelings about the trial and the possibility of going to jail. At the end of the book, Steve continues to make films of himself to try to figure out who he is and whether or not he is the monster that he was called during the trial. In the novel, you will see instructions that Steve has written for the camera angles.

Examples of screenplay instructions:

Int. —This is a scene that takes place inside.

Ext. —This is a scene that takes place outside.

O.C. —This stands for "off-camera," and it means the actor's voice is heard, but the actor is not seen.

The screenplay helps Steve cope with being in jail while awaiting his trial. He can pretend that everything is happening to someone else. The screenplay also helps the reader see that Steve is multifaceted. Steve loves his film class, and he is clearly talented and has a passion for film. He is also very introspective.

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beaubeaver | Student

Steven Harmon uses two distinct formats in Monster. The first format is a diary that shows his current thoughts and feelings about being in jail, listening to witness testimony, and hearing advice from his attorney. This diary gives a personal insight into Steve's mental state, and mental decline, while he is trapped in jail during his trial. Also, the reader gets a front row seat as Steve learns how unfair the justice system truly is in America.

The second format is a movie screenplay. Steve uses this format to describe important current scenes and relevant flashbacks throughout the novel. The screenplay is written just like a movie script. This allows Steve to describe the setting (ex. INTERIOR jail) and the characters in the scene (ex. Steve is sitting in the van) quickly then focus on the dialogue. While the descriptions are crucial to the story, it is the dialogue that propels the screenplay portion of the book. We learn about characters' motivations and personalities from their dialogue.

We learn that despite Osvaldo Cruz acting like a tough gang member outside the court house:

"He don't have no choice. He mess with me and the Diablos will burn him up. Ain't that right, faggot?"

He is actually just a scared teenager once he is put on the stand in the court room:

"He said he would cut me up and get my moms, too. I was, like, really scared of him."

The screenplay allows the reader to see Steve's life before he was arrested without being clouded by his current fragile emotional state. It is also a way for Steve to channel his anger and fear at being in jail in a constructive manner. Without the screenplay to occupy his mind, Steve might not have lasted in jail to the end of his trial.