This Bestseller from Walter Dean Myers has been translated into many languages, including French, German, Romanian, Turkish, and so on. There are at least twenty-five editions of ‘Monster’, with its English versions leading the pack.
A Little Background
Steve Harmon is caught in the slippery slope that is felony murder. We follow fourteen-year-old Steve’s camera through it all. He is accused of being an accomplice in the murder of Mr. Nesbitt, a middle-aged drugstore owner in Harlem City. He is said to have participated in the robbery that led to Mr. Nesbitt’s death. Bobo and Osvaldo testify that Steve took part in the robbery and that his role was to signal. Steve insists he wasn’t even in that vicinity the day the incident occurred, which was on the 22nd of December, three days before Christmas.
Represented by O’Brien, a New York City-trained lawyer, Steve fights to regain his ‘freedom’. ‘Freedom’ because freedom is subjective. Anyway, he fights to get out of jail. Steve eventually regains his freedom, but before that, he loses hope several times while on trial. Walter Dean Myers dedicated ‘Monster’ to John Brendel “for his long friendship.”
The crime drama is relatively short. The scenes are divided into dates, and every date is like a chapter. The trial begins on Monday, July 6th, and the verdict is given on Friday, July 17th. This literature of the Contemporary Times, comprising 281 pages, is heavy with meanings and lessons.
In December, almost one year after Mr. Nesbitt was murdered, we now see Steve, long out of jail, with his camera, living his life and trying to rediscover himself. Each date begins with a narration, sometimes as a note or alongside a note from the protagonist.
The story of ‘Monster’ is beautiful. No, not Steve’s ordeal, just the meanings embedded in the story. The question of race and how justice can be influenced by it, especially in a country with a racial history like America, where and when prejudice comes in, for Steve is called a monster even before he is proven guilty.
The author is precise in his use of words. He makes it easy to tell where someone comes from, just by how that person speaks. For instance, how Bobo speaks is completely different from how O’Brien speaks. King is also more like Bobo, Osvaldo, and Cruz than O’Brien, Petrocelli, and Briggs who are more alike in terms of being refined.
The characterization is also well-executed. Every character in ‘Monster‘ (either mentioned once or severally) plays a pertinent role. Towards the beginning of the drama, we see Steve as a child playing with his childhood friend, Tony. He mistakenly throws a rock at a passer-by, a lady in the company of a certain tough-looking guy. Then the tough-looking guy thinks it’s Tony and goes on to punch Tony. When he leaves, Tony tries to complain, and Steve absolves himself of the blame. Then Tony says he will get an Uzi to blow the tough-looking guy’s brains out. The point is: even though Tony and the tough-looking guy appear only in one scene, they play an important role. They depict Steve’s neighborhood as quite rough. Their attitudes showed that very much.
The Imaginary Camera
Steve’s imaginary camera helps out with imagery. It is also worth mentioning that the illustrations by Walter Dean Myers’ son, Christopher Myers, are commendable. We see things as vividly as Steve’s camera does.
‘Monster’ has the effect of making one think deeply. It has a lasting impact on the reader. After the last line, the reader is wont to find him or herself asking questions, wondering why. Why did O’Brien react the way she did immediately after the verdict was given in their favor? Another, but still connected- what did she see? Whatever it is, I bet Steve’s father saw it too. That explains the distance. Perhaps Steve Harmon might not be as innocent as he made us believe.
This is how thought-provoking Walter Dean’s ‘Monster’ is. It may appear ironic when read plainly, but I’ll say it anyway: ‘Monster’ is beautiful. Okay, ‘Monster’ is a beautiful read. That removes the ambiguity, I guess.
‘Monster’: Walter Dean Myers' Masterpiece
Lasting effect on the reader
Walter Dean Myers' Masterpiece ‘Monster’: Review
‘Monster’ tells the story of Steve Harmon, a fourteen-year-old boy who finds himself roped in a felony murder case. He fights to regain his freedom.
- ‘Monster’ is realistic.
- Its simplicity is also a plus.
- Drama, the genre adopted, is very appropriate for the type of story it tells.
- A few typographical errors.
- The book features children a lot, however, it isn’t particularly suitable for children.
- It would probably have been better if the character that is the Judge, was allowed to develop more.