In the first chapter of Monster, the narrator, Steve, mentions that, to him, being in jail is like being in a movie—one of the old ones that are difficult to follow. In fact, Steve decides to journal about his trial as if it were a movie, and the title he chooses is "Monster," since that’s what the prosecutor is calling him; this gives readers their first real glimpse of who Steve might be.
Just like in a real film, the author of Monster, Walter Dean Myers, chooses to give us further clues as to who Steve is as a person, his interior character traits. During two of these cutscenes, Steve learns that Aguinaldo Nesbitt has been murdered, and it is in the description of Steve’s reaction to this that we can infer more about Steve’s emotional state.
In the first flashback, Steve overhears two women discussing the shooting. Steve begins to walk, then trot, finally breaking into a run until the camera pans the neighborhood, and we can no longer see him. Steve is literally running away from the news of Nesbitt’s death. Clearly he is afraid, but whether this fear comes from guilt is still unclear.
In the second flashback, Steve is watching the news, and the recent shooting is the current hot topic. Jerry changes the channel, seemingly unfazed. Steve, however, is described as staring fish-faced—in other words, eyes bulging, mouth gaping. These are sure signs of fear and maybe even some guilt.
But is Steve guilty? Is he the monster the prosecution would have the jury believe him to be? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, we know Steve hung out with a pretty rough crowd; in chapter fourteen, he is even asked to be a lookout for the heist Nesbitt dies on, and Steve was there: “I walked in a drugstore to look for some mints and then I walked out,” he writes in his journal. But whether he was also acting as a lookout, we don’t know.
Conversely, Steve is portrayed as a good kid; his teacher testifies describing him as bright and compassionate, and he is terrified of jail and the violent men inside. Whether he is truly guilty and whether these flashbacks offer proof of this or not is ambiguous. One thing is for certain: at his core, Steve is just a scared kid, struggling to figure out who he really is.