Where is Steve Harmon living in Walter Dean Myers's novel Monster?

Steve Harmon is living in Cell Block D of the Manhattan Detention Center in New York City.

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Strictly speaking, Steve Harmon's not so much living in Cell Block D of the Manhattan Detention Center in New York City as existing there. It's a horrible place, somewhere that no one in their right mind would want to be. But given that Steve's been charged for his involvement in...

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Strictly speaking, Steve Harmon's not so much living in Cell Block D of the Manhattan Detention Center in New York City as existing there. It's a horrible place, somewhere that no one in their right mind would want to be. But given that Steve's been charged for his involvement in a robbery that ended in murder, he has no choice in the matter. For now, this jail is his home.

Although Steve cannot physically escape from his new environment, he can at least take a step back from his immediate surroundings and escape into another world, a world in which his experiences of life in jail form a major part of the screenplay he's writing. By turning his story into a film script, Steve is stepping outside himself, which makes life in jail just that little bit less unbearable.

In doing this, he's making the jail even less like a home than it already is. Steve isn't really living here; he's just passing through, observing all the little details of life in one of America's many penal institutions. As well as helping him to get through the ordeal of incarceration, this approach also provides plenty of good material for the script that Steve's writing and that he hopes one day to make into a film.

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In Monster by Walter Dean Myers, Steve Harmon is awaiting and then undergoing trial for his involvement in a robbery and murder. As he does so, he is living in Cell Block D of New York's Manhattan Detention Center.

Although he must, at this stage, be regarded as innocent of any crime, since all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, the Manhattan Detention Center is, in every respect, similar to the long-term prisons which house convicted criminals. It is a hostile and dangerous environment, where Steve hears the noises of gang rape and other violent acts taking place from his cell. He also experiences lockdown after a fight breaks out. Steve's parents find the detention center an upsetting place even to visit, and his brother is too young to be allowed in, as Steve himself would be if he were not an inmate.

The entire time in which he is imprisoned in the detention center and attending his trial, Steve is also living a parallel life inside a film which he is directing in his mind. He does this because film is his greatest interest—but also, perhaps, because it gives him a sense of agency to be directing and participating in a film rather than being imprisoned and helpless inside a detention center.

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From the opening passages, it is very clear that the young protagonist of Walter Dean Myers’ novel Monster is incarcerated in some type of penal institution. In the prologue to the novel-written-as-screenplay, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is ruminating on life in prison, noting that the optimal moment to cry is at night when it is dark and another prisoner is screaming in pain from being beaten. The second paragraph begins as follows: “There is a mirror over the steel sink in my cell.” The answer to the question, then, regarding Steve’s whereabouts in Monster is “prison.” Specifically, as indicated in the opening stage direction to the screenplay, Steve is housed in Cell Block D at the Manhattan Detention Center.

Monster is about this teenage boy subjected to the horrors of the criminal justice system when he is accused of murder along with three other men. In the novel’s denouement, Steve is acquitted of the murder charge, but his life is irreparably changed. In depicting the tribulations of a young black man wrongfully accused of murder, Myers is illuminating the dehumanizing nature of the criminal justice process and the way his protagonist is forever viewed by segments of society as the titular “monster.” Once accused of a crime, Steve now fits into the stereotype of black youth as criminal despite his youth and innocence.

During the course of the novel, Steve references additional venues, usually in the context of flashbacks and commutes between the detention center and the courthouse. Consequently, there are descriptions of the window of the van used to transport prisoners and references to Stuyvesant High School, which Steve attends as a student and studies film (hence, the screenplay format of the novel).

 

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Steve Harmon, in the book Monster by Walter Dean Myers, tells his story from Cell Block D at the Manhattan Detention Center in New York.  The books setting takes place at two basic places: the cell block and the courtroom where he is on trial for accessory to murder. At the end of the novel, Steve has returned home.  He has continued his film-making, which his mother fails to understand.  His father has left; Steve thinks he (his father) did so because he is not sure who Steve is or why Steve has acquaintances such as Bobo or King.

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