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Study Guide for Monster by Walter Dean Myers Summary

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PLOT NOTES / SYNOPSIS - MONSTER BY WALTER DEAN MYERS

Journal Entry #3

Summary

In this journal entry, Steve writes that the authorities take away your shoelaces and your belt to prevent a suicide. He says, “I guess making you live is part of the punishment.” He also confesses that he doesn’t feel like he’s really involved as he sits in the courtroom. Only when he returns to his jail cell does the reality hit him again. His lawyer explains that the prosecutor is creating a trail with Bolden’s testimony that will lead right to him and King. However, Steve thinks she’s just parading all these terrible individuals in front of the jury to demonstrate that they are just like them. He contrasts this thought with his memory of Jerry and the super hero, because he thinks it makes him seem like a real person. One of the prisoners asks Steve if he can read his screenplay and tells him afterwards that he likes it so much that when he gets out, he’s going to have the word monster tattooed on his forehead. Steve feels like he already has the word on his own forehead.

Steve also remembers that a preacher came to the recreation room and asked if anyone wanted to share a moment of prayer. Steve had been about to volunteer when a prisoner named Lynch who was on trial for killing his wife, cursed the man, saying that everybody wanted to talk to him and act like they were good when they were all just criminals. Steve thinks the man is at least partially right, because he believes he is a good person, but being with these guys makes it hard to think of himself as being different.

He ends the journal entry with notes in which he describes a dream he had where he was in the courtroom trying to ask questions and no one could hear him. When he’s awake, he’s gassy and bloated, because he can’t go to the bathroom in front of everyone.

Notes

Some important philosophy comes out in this Journal Entry. First, we see how Steve is more and more beginning to see himself as no different than the other prisoners in the detention center. He also is beginning to understand that just living with all the men he is beginning to identify with is a kind of punishment. The dream is metaphorical in that it compares Steve’s sense that he has no power to being unheard in the courtroom.


Wednesday, July 8th

Summary

The next day in court opens with a conversation between two police officers, Attorney O’Brien, and the judge about termites, and how the detective who’s about to testify has had a hemorrhoid operation. This innocuous everyday conversation between colleagues contrasts with the reality of two men being on trial for their lives.


Detective Karyl takes the stand and describes the gruesome scene of the murder. The camera cuts to the drugstore and José Delgado who is discovering the body. Then, the camera returns to the courtroom where Petrocelli asks him to identify the gruesome pictures of Mr. Nesbitt’s body, which to Steve become black and white and flash in increasingly contrasting and grainy format until they are hardly recognizable. Karyl further testifies that he called the Emergency Medical Service and then noted that the cash register was open. He admits that there really were no others clues to be found. In fact, the case was grinding to a dead end until he received the tip that Zinzi had bought cigarettes from Bobo. He explains that they often use informants in murder cases.

Once again, the play is interrupted with a flashback where Steve is speaking with Detectives Karyl and Arthur. Karyl claims that King and Evans have said that Steve pulled the trigger in the murder. Steve insists he doesn’t know anything about a stickup. They are obviously using lies to try to get him to admit he was involved in the murder. Steve imagines himself being led to the death chamber on death row. Then, he is forced to lie on the table for the lethal injection where they painfully insert a plug to keep his body from messing itself at the moment of death.

The reality of the courtroom returns where Detective Karyl is being questioned by Briggs. Briggs tries to get Karyl to admit that since there were no fingerprints, the police just turned to their “stoolies” for help against the accused. He makes the jury aware that finding a “witness” in jail isn’t really that hard.

Another flashback occurs in which Steve is talking with an older prisoner who tells him that in cases like his, they have to give him some time in prison. Steve insists that he’s a human being who wants a life, too. Another prisoner asks the older one to suppose that Steve is innocent. Steve says he is, but the older prisoner that somebody has to be locked up and it might as well be Steve.

In the next scene, O’Brien answers Steve’s question about how the trial is going by telling him that nothing is happening that points to Steve’s being innocent. She points out that he’s young, Black, and on trial. What else does the jury need to know? When Steve questions the idea that you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilt, O’Brien tells him that it depends on how the jury sees the case. They often tend to see the Prosecutor as a person who would not lie.

The next witness on the stand will be Osvaldo Cruz, which makes Steve flashback again to the neighborhood stoop where he is speaking with 14-year-old Osvaldo Cruz and 16-year-old Freddy Alou. The conversation concerns Osvaldo’s arrogance and pride in the Diablos - the gang he belongs to. Osvaldo tells Steve that he’s lame, meaning he doesn’t have the heart to hang out with certain people and that when the deal goes down, he won’t be around.

Back in the courtroom, Osvaldo has taken the stand, but he is not the same arrogant, threatening individual he had bee with Steve. Now, he talks softly and timidly as he explains that he had to help Bobo with the robbery, because he was afraid of him. Petrocelli gives him a series of names and asks him if he knows them. He then identifies both James King and Steve Harmon. He finally verbally admits that he participated in the robbery and was afraid of all three - King, Evans, and Harmon. He cannot look at James King or Steve as they lead them all away.

Notes

This chapter serves to bring important information to the reader - Karyl had questioned Steve, but the boy had never admitted any guilt for the crime; Steve knew Osvaldo Cruz as well as James King, so once again there is a connection between him the perpetrators of the murder; there really is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty, because verdicts are all about the jury’s perception of the accused; Osvaldo may insist he participated in the robbery because he was afraid, but the reality is that he is playacting as a timid, fearful individual; Osvaldo knew that Steve was “lame,” meaning he didn’t have the heart to there when the deal goes down; and Osvaldo doesn’t have the character to look at the two men he testified against, because he lied.

 

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