Monster Study Guide
Introduction to Monster
Monster is a novel by Walter Dean Myers. Published in 1999, it follows the story of a Black teenager named Steve Harmon, who is on trial for murder. In order to document the events of the trial, Steve decides to pen a screenplay, and this is the frame through which most of the story is told. This unique literary format offers Myers and Steve the chance to provide stage directions and descriptive images without interrupting the flow of the narrative. It also emphasizes the novel’s focus on storytelling and the ways in which popular narratives can impact the people they are imposed upon.
Steve Harmon is a creative and intelligent young man, with a passion for filmmaking. However, because he is Black, the prosecutors in the trial label him as a violent and monstrous criminal. The media adopts this interpretation, and Steve is left to watch as his life and identity are reinterpreted by people who do not actually know him in order to fit a certain narrative. Racism, and the dehumanizing effects it has on young Black people, dominates the narrative, and Steve fights to maintain his sense of self even as the rest of the world chooses to actively misinterpret him.
A Brief Biography of Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers (1937–2014) was an American author with a prolific career during which he published over one hundred books. Myers’s childhood informed much of his later writing, as he was sent away from his impoverished birth family to live with foster parents in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Harlem became a deeply inspirational place for Myers, whose later works often focused on characters growing up in urban settings. After starting school, Myers was often recognized as a promising student, but he was behaviorally disrupted and experienced frequent bullying due to a speech impediment. Writing became an outlet through which he could express his emotions. He eventually dropped out of high school and enlisted in the army. Upon returning to Harlem, Myers began writing in his free time, publishing stories and articles in local publications before eventually winning the Council For Interracial Books Award for his debut book, Where Does The Day Go? He subsequently began working as an editor and writer before transitioning to writing full-time. His forty-five year career produced a number of award-winning works, including Motown and Didi, Scorpions, Fallen Angels, and Monster.