In Monster by Walter Dean Myers, what do Steve's flashbacks to learning of Nesbitt's murder suggest about his guilt or innocence?

Quick answer:

The two flashbacks suggest Steve is in some way involved in the murder of the drugstore owner. Both times after hearing news of the crime, he goes into shock. The images in the script then suggest that he has got himself into big trouble.

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On page 117, Steve overhears a woman in his neighborhood tell a friend that some kids shot and killed an owner from the drugstore. Initially, the script's action describes Steve standing within earshot holding a basketball. However, at some point what he hears gets to be too much, because after the woman 2 says "Oh, you know it's a shame. You know it is," the script's action describes Steve so desperate to get away that he leaves behind his ball. Even as Steve disappears into the crowd, the audience continues to hear the two women talking as a voiceover. It is as if he feels their voices are accusing him and he can't get them out his head. That certainly suggests some kind of guilt on his part. The images in the script reinforce that guilt further when it describes the camera panning to the basketball left in the gutter. Steve seems to know that he has let himself down.

On page 120, we see Steve sitting in his apartment watching the TV newscaster describe the murder of the drugstore owner. "He is staring straight ahead, mouth open in absolute shock." He doesn't even react when his brother turns over to the cartoon channel. Again, it is difficult to seem him reacting in this way if he wasn't in some way involved in the crime. As the deflected colors of the cartoon moving across his face suggest, he has exited the innocence of childhood and entered the dark, often unforgiving world of adulthood.

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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.

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In the first flashback scene, Steve overhears two women speaking about the murder of Aguinaldo Nesbitt. Steve then walks through the crowd of people, and begins to sprint away as the camera pans out. Steve running away from the scene suggests that he feels guilty about his involvement in the crime and is trying to escape from the reality of the situation. In the second flashback scene, Steve is watching the news and listens as the newscaster says that two armed men robbed and killed Aguinaldo Nesbitt. Jerry then picks up the remote and changes the channel. Steve Harmon's mouth is wide open and is in absolute shock after hearing about the tragedy. Two weeks later, Steve watches the news and learns that Richard "Bobo" Evans was arrested for robbery and murder. The camera then cuts to Steve's room, where he is lying on his bed with his eyes open. When he hears a knock on the door, Steve does not even react. Steve's emotions after learning about the crime suggest that he was involved because he is extremely worried and afraid. When Steve overhears the women talking about the crime, he runs away out of fear. After learning that the store owner was murdered during the robbery, Steve is shocked. His emotions reveal his fear and anxiety about being arrested for his involvement in the robbery. Steve's reactions suggest that he was involved and is guilty of participating in the robbery and murder of Aguinaldo Nesbitt.

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