What are two conflicts that occur in Monster and what do each help to understand/learn?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One distinct conflict that Steve experiences in the external conflict exists in how others see him.  Steve struggles with the perception that others have of him. Myers brings this out in how the legal system is predicated upon casting Steve in a particular light.  The prosecution wants to paint Steve as a "monster."  This perception is critical in establishing the case against him.  Essentially, the way in which Steve is perceived can go very far in determining if he is imprisoned or freed.  For Steve, this conflict exists as one between himself and the external social setting, what could be seen as "Man vs. others." Steve must do battle with the conflict that rages in how others wish to paint him and his own sense of identity.  This forms a critical aspect of the text because it drives the plot.  It is an external conflict.  It helps the reader understand that the struggle between the individual and society is one that can have profound impacts in one's life.  This conflict is critical in establishing the characterization of Steve offered. His entire script can be seen as a result of this conflict, a byproduct of him wishing to have his own voice injected in a conflict where external reality seeks to silence it.

Along these lines, another conflict that emerges is a more internal one.  One of the byproducts that results from Steve having to battle the external conflict of how he is perceived is how Steve sees himself.  As the trail progresses and the intensity of the prosecution's case reveals itself, Steve recognizes that he might actually be the "monster" that is being depicted:  "It was me who lay on the cot wondering if I was fooling myself."  This is enhanced in how others perceive him such as O'Brien being cold to him after the trial and his own father who is "no longer sure of" who he is.  These reflect an internal conflict in which Steve struggles to understand his own sense of self.  This "man vs. self" conflict is one that helps to bring out the novel's profound moral delving.  It is a condition in which self- questioning and self- examination takes place in the midst of the implications of what might be:   "I am so scared. My heart is beating like crazy and I am having breathing trouble. The trouble I'm in . . . [is] crushing me."  Being able to explore this particular conflict helps the reader gain a level of understanding into the complex identity that Steve possesses.  In doing so, Myers is able to make Steve a more approachable human being, an aspect that helps to universalize his characterization.