What are two symbols used in Monster and what does each symbol represent?

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

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Given how Myers develops the plot and characterization in Monster, there are a variety of symbols that can be used.  The first is the mirror that is established in the text's exposition.  The mirror is an effective symbol that can embody so much in Steve's narrative:

There is a mirror over the steel sink in my cell. It's six inches high, and scratched with the names of some guys who were here before me. When I look into the small rectangle, I see a face looking back at me but I don't recognize it.

The mirror can represent the reality that confronts Steve in both the reality he faces as well as the perceptions that linger as a result  On one hand, the mirror can represent how what Steve faces, as inescapable as his reflection in the mirror.  Steve cannot escape the judgment of jail, the pain of the judicial system, as well as the legal and spiritual reality that is intrinsic to his experience.  The mirror can be symbolic of how others see him, as evidenced in O'Brien turning from him at the end of the trial, as well as how he sees himself in terms of honesty and self- deception ("It was me who lay on the cot wondering if I was fooling myself.")  This struggle to recognize what is reality can be seen in his own father, who is conflicted in terms of how he sees his son:  "My [Steve's] father is no longer sure of who I am. He doesn't understand me even knowing people like King or Bobo or Osvaldo. He wonders what else he doesn't know."  The mirror can operate as a symbol because, like Steve, it probes the nature of reality.  Steve's perception of self and how others see him can be seen in the reflective nature of the mirror as a symbol.

Another symbol would be the script that Steve is writing.  The script operates as the novel's narrative capacity.  At the same time, it is symbolic of Steve's voice, something that is challenged given the conditions of the trial.  The prosecution seeks to impose a particular voice upon Steve, while O'Brien and her defense wishes to counteract this with supplying its own voice to describe him.  At the same time, Steve struggles with his own voice in the midst of incarceration and the trial.  In the end, the script becomes a symbol of constructing voice in a world where Steve finds this to be absent:

I wish I could make sense of it.

Maybe I could make my own movie. I could write it out and play it in my head. I could block out the scenes like we did in school. The film will be the story of my life.

No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll write it down in the notebook they let me keep. I'll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me.

The script is symbolic of Steve's desire to develop a voice.  In a world where voice is absent and superimposed by external reality, the script operates as symbolic of Steve's desire to develop his own voice.  Regardless of guilt, Steve's desire to create his own voice, authenticating his own perception, is a symbolic vehicle of how freedom can exist within an individual's state of mind.  It is in this light where the script is a symbol of Steve's capacity, something transcending the brick of the prison and the legalese of the court system.

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