There aren’t so many quotes in Walter Dean Myers ‘Monster’ (so many would mean the average number of quotes a book its size would likely have). Perhaps it is so because of the writing method adopted by the writer, perhaps it isn’t. But the few quotes in this crime drama are powerfully loaded with meanings. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The best time to cry is at night, when the light are out and someone is being beaten and screaming for help. That way, even if you sniffle a little, they won’t hear you. If anybody knows that you are crying, they’ll start talking about it and soon it’ll be your turn to get beat up when the lights go out.
This is life in prison in a nutshell. People can be cruel. Once cruel people sense fear, they are emboldened even more. This one from the protagonist (Steve Harmon) comes at the beginning of the drama. A story leads to this one, that would lead to another, and on it goes- a continuum. What would relatively be considered as the little time Steve Harmon spent in prison had him witnessing fights regularly.
The guards had mean words ready, and the prisoners had their fists and weapons from god-knows-where, always ready to fight- someone is stabbed in the eye, almost kicked to death, beat to a pulp, always someone! He didn’t even have to look for anyone’s trouble, all he just had to do was weep for himself, and trouble would find him. What a place to be!
Preservation of Life
They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can’t kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment.
These are preventive measures against suicide, another one of Steve’s thoughts. When people are arrested, these things are taken away. Life is precious, and everyone must answer for his or her own crimes. A criminal signing out without punishment would be, what now? Undeserved mercy, perhaps.
Maybe this is the way the justice system sees things. Perhaps Steve is wrong, and it is not about escaping punishment. What if it’s just them preserving lives? Well, either way, this is a remarkable interpretation from Steve. It gives the reader a snippet into Steve’s mind. He is more of a pessimist than an optimist, and whether or not it’s the prison that made him so, the quote remains relevant.
Shoelaces and belts are taken away from them before they are locked up in order not to kill themselves or anyone else, for that matter. Evidently, this is not entirely effective, as they still always find a way to sneak things in. We recall Steve talking about one prisoner who has a razor blade attached to his toothbrush. These amongst so many other things made Steve fear for his life in jail.
In here, you don’t smile back at people who smile at you.
These were Steve’s thoughts at some point. Sunday mornings usually had many people staying back and not coming out for breakfast. Steve comes out one Sunday morning to collect his food, and the guy at the counter smiles at him, but he doesn’t smile back. In there, a prisoner can’t tell friends apart from enemies, so it is just better to act edgy than to act stupid. Outside, unless someone has done something wrong, or you feel someone is dangerous, it is always good to return a smile. In there, things are totally different. It is every man for himself, and even something as simple as returning a smile can cost someone a lot by putting that person in a lot of trouble.
I think I finally understand why there are so many fights in here, all you have going for you is the little surface stuff, how people look at you and what they say. And if that’s all you have, then you have to protect that. Maybe that’s right.
Lack of substance would have people noticing things that aren’t even there to begin with. Where Steve finds himself, giving someone a certain look can get him beaten to a pulp or even killed. In there, the fights are always very violent, with lots of blood to show for them. In prison, even though things are serious, especially for those whose cases are still in court, it is like nothing is happening and the prisoners’ lives have come to a standstill, except they are getting worse because most of them can barely recognize themselves.
We witness this with Steve. He sees himself differently while in court. His imaginary camera works even better there. Locked up, everyone is bound to get in everyone’s way, and boundaries are blurred. That explains the regularity of the fights and the bouts of violence.
There are lot of things you can do with film, but you don’t have an unlimited access to your audience. In other words, keep it simple. You tell the story, you don’t look at the camera technician to tell the story for you. When you see a filmmaker getting too fancy, you can bet he’s worried either about his story or his ability to tell it.
This one is about filmmaking, and it is from Sawicki, Steve Harmon’s Film teacher, the initiator of Steve’s imaginary camera. He is one of those that make it to Steve’s list of the people he admires. It was O’Brien who told Steve to make the list. That list of people he loves and people he admires must have helped him cope when he was losing hope. Anyway, back to the quote. This is a powerful one from Sawicki.
One doesn’t even need to be a filmmaker to know this. The audience can tell when a story is forced. The most powerful stories aren’t complicated. There is beauty in simplicity. In trying to force things and touch what should not be touched, people do too much and ruin things. The notion that the audience will always be there is deceptive. The audience can and does get tired. Filmmakers should learn to tell their own stories, just like Steve did. Life can be like a movie sometimes, but more real. In fact, no one should tell your story that it is not you.
Last night, I was afraid to go to sleep. It was as if closing my eyes was going to cause me to die. There’s nothing more to do, there are no more arguments to make. Now I understand why so many of you guys who have been through it before, who have been away to prison, keep talking about appeals. The want to continue the argument, and the system has said it is over.
The night after the three lawyers: Briggs, O’Brien, and Petrocelli presented their cases, these were Steve’s thoughts. These are thoughts from someone who had lost all hope. He couldn’t sleep. He was waiting for the day to break, a day he dreaded so much, the day that’d go on to seal his fate. Restless, Steve begins to understand why most times, even after the verdict has been given, people go on to appeal. Imagine being locked up for a crime you didn’t commit. Now, stop imagining. Someone in that position would go to any length (preferably within the ambit of the law) to come out of jail. Severally, Steve could still hear the prosecutor calling him “monster”. ‘Monster’, as boldly said and written as the title of the book.
Which would you consider the most powerful quote from ‘Monster?’
‘Monster’ has some very remarkable quotes, but I would consider the quote about film the most powerful one from the book. Here: “There are a lot of things you can do with film, but you don’t have unlimited access to your audience. In other words, keep it simple. You tell the story, you don’t look at the camera technician to tell the story for you. When you see a filmmaker getting too fancy, you can bet he’s worried either about his story or his ability to tell it.” In a nutshell, simplicity is key, and no one should tell your story for you.
What’s the first notable quote from ‘Monster?’
The first notable quote from ‘Monster’ is the one about choosing to cry at night and when it’s noisy, so one won’t get in trouble while locked up. Here it is: “The best time to cry is at night when the lights are out, and someone is being beaten and screaming for help. That way, even if you sniffle a little, they won’t hear you. If anybody knows that you are crying, they’ll start talking about it, and soon it’ll be your turn to get beat up when the lights go out.” Prison just has the effect of stifling the prisoners.
How thought-provoking is ‘Monster?’
‘Monster’ is very thought-provoking. It would leave one asking a lot of questions, and they would most likely be questions about race and how the justice system is influenced by it.
What do most of the quotes from ‘Monster’ have in common?
One thing that most of the quotes from ‘Monster’ have in common is realism, the sad, realistic truth, especially about life in a correctional facility; how and why people would lose hope in a place like that and what keeps them going.