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.

Frequently Asked Questions about Monster

Monster

The book Monster by Walter Dean Myers is not based on a true story, for there never actually was a sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon who got himself entangled with bunch of neighborhood crooks and...

Latest answer posted May 11, 2021, 7:20 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

Monster

Myers's 1999 young adult crime novel Monster is set in New York City, in Manhattan and Harlem. Through Steve's memories and flashbacks, the audience is able to explore these areas; the narrative...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

Monster

Much of Monster is written in the style of a screenplay. This is entirely appropriate, as Steve Harmon, the story's protagonist, wants to use his experience of the criminal justice system and of...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:25 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Steve has been put on cleaning detail in prison. He's been assigned this detail with four other guys who've been ordered to mop the corridors. Before carrying out this tedious, unpleasant chore,...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:36 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

In Monster, Steve is found not guilty. Most readers will consider this a just verdict. Steve is certainly not guilty of murder or of any complicity in in the killing of Mr. Nesbitt, and he is very...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:47 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

There's no honor among thieves, as the old saying goes, and there certainly isn't any when it comes to Osvaldo Cruz. This fourteen-year-old gang member has agreed to testify in open court against...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

In one of many cinematic flashbacks in the story, we're taken back to a film workshop that Steve once attended at Stuyvesant High School. Everyone's watching a class film project, which is then...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

In Monster, Mr. Harmon's dream for Steve was that he would attend Morehouse College, the alma mater of both Mr. Harmon himself and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While at Morehouse, Steve would play...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:12 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon and twenty-two-year-old James King are charged with felony murder for their involvement in a failed robbery of a drugstore in Harlem, in which the drugstore owner (Mr....

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:18 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

In Walter Dean Meyers's novel Monster, Steve Harmon is on trial for his life regarding the robbery and murder of Alguinaldo Nesbitt. During the trial, Steve's attorney, Kathy O'Brien, tries to...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Walter Dean Myers's book Monster is an interesting book to examine in terms of the plot and climax, because readers could arguably defend several possible climaxes in the book. The climax of a...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:28 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Though much of the book is written in the style of a screenplay, the ending of Monster is nothing like anything you'd see in a regular Hollywood movie. Steve Harmon may well have been acquitted of...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:30 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Different readers will draw different morals from Monster, and it is unlikely that Walter Dean Myers wrote it with only one moral in mind. Few stories, and even fewer novels, function as parables,...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:39 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

The various settings are important pieces to Walter Dean Myers's Monster. The settings are important because of how they function in terms of the overall plot, but the settings are equally...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 12:47 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

In the novel Monster, Lorelle Henry is a diminutive fifty-eight-year-old grandmother who is the only eyewitness of the crime and identifies James King as one of the criminals involved in the...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 1:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Walter Dean Myers places several flashbacks in Monster. A flashback interrupts the story's main narrative and takes readers back to a previous time. The goal of many flashbacks is to provide...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 1:03 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Throughout Monster, Walter Dean Myers makes it clear that the environment in which Steve is growing up is violent and unforgiving. Steve tries to look into this tough society objectively by making...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 1:18 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

Towards the end of the story, the final verdict is read and James King is found guilty of felony murder but Steve Harmon is acquitted. When Steve is found not guilty, he turns towards Kathy O'Brien...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 1:34 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

O'Brien believes that it is imperative for Steve to testify so that he can distance himself from James King, Osvaldo Cruz, and Richard Evans and prove that he is a good-natured, kind teenager who...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 3:09 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Monster

It seems like a discussion about Steve’s possible changes in Monster should come with a caveat: Steve doesn’t really need to change. Steve wasn’t having significant issues or problems in the first...

Latest answer posted October 20, 2020, 5:17 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer
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Summary