The story, for the first page and maybe a quarter of it, begins in prose form and transitions to drama almost abruptly. This style is maintained throughout. ‘Monster’ is very thought-provoking and packed with lessons.
‘Spoiler-Free’ Monster Summary
Steve Harmon, a fourteen-year-old black boy, finds himself roped into a felony murder case. He gets to introduce himself to us when his life had already started to plummet. This chap finds himself in prison alongside people, most of whom are hardened criminals, because he is accused of being an accomplice in the murder of Mr. Nesbitt, a middle-aged drugstore owner.
The incident occurs in Harlem, New York City. Steve Harmon is on trial alongside James King who, in the bid to distance himself from gangsters as much as he can, he now says is just an acquaintance. In the middle of something as serious as felony murder, Steve just couldn’t recognize himself anymore. He marveled at how much he had changed in such little time. Whenever he looks in the mirror, he is in disbelief. To block off the unpleasantness as much as he could, he starts seeing the whole situation as a film, a sad one. Sometimes he would tell himself that it can’t be him in court and on trial for participating in a robbery that led to someone’s death. But it is him, there, accused and being defended by O’Brien, his lawyer.
Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers
Steve Harmon is on trial for participating in a robbery that led to the death of Mr. Nesbitt, a drugstore owner. His little brother, Jerry, and his parents are all very affected by his situation. Steve’s imaginary camera helps him cope a little. Mr. Sawicki’s class became of good use anyway. Something to take out of the whole thing, a consolation sort of. But later, there would be another consolation, something bigger.
For now, Steve’s camera follows him from the prison yard to the views outside of it, to the courtroom, and to the moments that have now become memories, flashbacks to the times when everything seemed right with the world; when the highest crime would be when as children, Tony, his childhood friend said he’d get an uzi and blow a certain tough-looking guy’s brains out; when all Steve had to worry about was making some sort of short film about his neighborhood for Sawicki’s class; totally different from a robbery was being planned before him. We, in turn, follow Steve’s camera.
O’Brien, Steve’s lawyer, is full of doubt. With each testimony, it seems they get closer to losing the case. Bobo’s testimony seemed to worsen it all. But all hope is not lost for them anyway. She sees Steve has lost hope and tells him to believe in himself or no one would. Steve demonstrates his loss of hope several times. At some point, he even begins to doubt himself. He sees it in Petrocelli’s eyes, the look given to guilty people. Petrocelli, the lawyer representing the state, is ruthless. Once to his hearing, she gives him that look and says ‘monster’. He sees a bit of it in his father’s eyes too. Little, but there anyway, and big enough to matter. Petrocelli would go to any length to prove he is a monster. To any length, because she does not leave out even criminals as witnesses in the bid to push her case- Bobo, Osvaldo, Cruz, name them.
Testimonies or accounts from these people indict Steve even more. One time, he misses his little brother, Jerry, so much so that he wishes he was there with him. No, not in prison, but just there with him somehow. Jerry got to visit him only once. But as children are not allowed inside correctional facilities, Steve saw him from afar. He found it funny because if he were not in prison and was just visiting, he would not be allowed in as well.
The jurors hear from all the witnesses (not less than ten of them) including the woman who recounts visiting the store to get some cough medications for her sick grandchild. The woman mentions seeing James King on December 22, struggling with Mr. Nesbitt. Bobo corroborates that but ropes Steve in as the one who was sent to watch and give a signal when the coast is clear or when it’s not. He says they went ahead to rob Mr. Nesbitt without a signal from Steve because, to them, no signal meant that the coast was clear.
Towards the end of the story (as far as we know, because the story is a continuum) the three lawyers present their cases: O’Brien for Steve Harmon, one of the defendants, Briggs, representing the second defendant (James King), and Petrocelli, the prosecutor representing the state.
On the last day of the trial, Steve listens keenly but continues to hear the same line from the Judge addressing the jurors. Finally, the verdict is read out, and Steve Harmon is free to go, while James King is to be locked up.
Five months later, Steve already got himself a camera. He hopes it would help him answer the question of who he is because even he no longer knows- O’Brien and his father may be right for reacting the way they did.
How is ‘Monster’ structured?
Walter Dean Myers ‘Monster’ is structured in a simple way. It is a drama with scenes divided by dates. Each scene begins with a narration in the form of a note or sometimes, a narration and a separate note from Steve Harmon, the protagonist. The sentence structure adopted is simple. The language used is also simple.
Is ‘Monster’ a true story?
No, ‘Monster’ is not a true story; it is fiction. With this fact stated, it is worth mentioning that ‘Monster’ even though fictitious, is a book inspired partly by the author, Walter Dean Myers’ experiences.
What is the most ironic thing in ‘Monster?’
The most ironic thing in ‘Monster’ is Petrocelli, the lawyer representing the state, inviting just about anyone, including hardened criminals to make her point, and expecting that the words of criminals (most of them desperate to get a break from doing the time for their various crimes) to be trusted enough for their words to be admitted as true. But, it works partly anyway as James King was eventually found guilty.
Is ‘Monster’ a children’s book?
Not really. Though ‘Monster’ features a lot of children as its characters, ‘Monster’ isn’t particularly for children. It can be; however, I would categorize ‘Monster’ as a book meant mostly for adults.