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Study Guide for Monster by Walter Dean Myers Summary

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BOOK NOTES - MONSTER BY WALTER DEAN MYERS

Journal Entry #4

Summary

Steve voices one of his fears - that Kathy O’Brien doesn’t know what he’s really like and probably doesn’t care. Another prisoner in the detention center, Acie, is expecting a verdict in his case. He claims he doesn’t care what the verdict is, because they can put him in jail, but they can’t touch his soul. It is a moment of impact for Steve, because after his declaration, Acie begins to cry. It makes Steve realize that he could go to jail for 25 years to life. He can’t imagine himself in jail for that long, and he wants to cry, too.

As he gets dressed for the trial, Steve thinks of his mother and wonders what she’s thinking about him. He also thinks about Mr. Nesbitt and how he had finally looked at the pictures of the man’s body after Attorney O’Brien laid them out on the table to force him to look at them. He knows she has to be thinking, “Who is Steve Harmon?” He wants to open his shirt and tell her to look into his heart if she wants to know who he is. He thinks, “I know that in my heart I am not a bad person.” He asks Miss O’Brien about her life and later hears some guards in the holding pen talking about theirs. It seems to strike him how ordinary everyone else’s lives are.

Then, Steve is handcuffed near James King. He can smell the different scents of the man. He prays that King won’t speak to him, but the man does anyway. He wonders if Steve is going to cut a deal also and narrows his eyes and curls his lip at the younger boy. Steve realizes, however, that he doesn’t fear James King anymore. The life he’s living in the detention center is so much more frightening than King that he begins to laugh. In the courtroom, a group of school kids are there to view a real trial. They turn their eyes away from him, while he sits down in front of them and imagines himself sitting where they are.

Notes


This journal entry is one of self-exploration for Steve. He insists he’s a good person, but he sounds too much like he’s trying to convince himself. He worries about what others think of him, including his lawyer, his mother, and even some school children in the courtroom. He comes to the conclusion that the fear he deals with each day in the detention center is so great that a criminal like James King no longer has the ability to scare him. All of these examples show how much he has really changed in the short time he has been on trial for murder.


Thursday, July 9th

Summary

Back in the courtroom, a pretty black juror is smiling. Steve returns her smile, but she stops smiling and turns away. Steve puts his head down on the table in despair at which point O’Brien pulls him up, telling him that if he gives up, the jury will give up on him. He holds his head back up, but there are tears on his face.

Osvaldo’s testimony continues. He tells the jury that Bobo had told him the place was all lined up and that his job was to slow anyone down who came after them. He was going to push a garbage can in front of them. He then goes on to say much to Petrocelli’s satisfaction that Bobo had explained that he and James King were going into the store while Steve Harmon’s job was to be the lookout. Everybody involved was supposed to share in the money stolen. Osvaldo insists, however, that he wasn’t involved for the money, but rather because he feared Bobo. He also admits that he’s testifying because of a deal the prosecution had given him.

Briggs cross examines Osvaldo and emphasizes in his questions that once again, the witness is only saying what he is because he’d do anything to get out of trouble. He also points out that Osvaldo’s insistence that he’s telling the truth makes no sense coming from someone who would holdup a drugstore. When O’Brien cross-examines him, she asks him how he was apprehended. The witness explains that his girlfriend called the police after they had a fight. He lies when she asks him if he belongs to a gang and has to backpedal and characterize the lie as a mistake. He is also forced to admit how he became a member of the Diablos - he has to leave his mark on someone, which means slashing their face. She continues to reduce the effect of his testimony by emphasizing that he never feared fighting a member of the Diablos to get into the gang, he never feared cutting a stranger’s face, and he never feared beating up his girlfriend, but he claims he fears Bobo.

The scene switches now to the visitors’ area of the detention center where Steve is visiting with his father. Mr. Harmon tells him that his lawyer has told him the trial isn’t going well. “There’s so much garbage going through that courtroom . . . that anybody in there is going to have a stink on him.” Steve tells him father that O’Brien is going to put him on the stand to tell his side of the story. He says he’s going to tell the truth - he didn’t do anything wrong. There is a tense moment after these words, which prompts Steve to ask his father if he believes that. His father begins to cry and tells his son how he would lie in bed when Steve was first born and imagine scenes of the boy’s life. In all of his imaginings, he’d never thought his own son would be in any kind of trouble. Steve searches his father’s face for the reassurance he’s always seen there, but it’s obvious that he can’t find it. Steve begins to cry also, but his father can only murmur words of hope since he’s not allowed to touch his son. As the scene fades, there is only the sound of his father’s sobs.

Notes

There is juxtaposition here of two different young men - Osvaldo, age 14 and Steve, age 16. Osvaldo is a member of a gang, has impregnated his girlfriend, beats her up, and willingly joins in on this robbery/murder. Steve is a relatively decent young kid whose never been in trouble and now may have made some questionable decisions which are impacting deeply on his family. Osvaldo comes across as a liar, who is out to get himself out of trouble by turning on others. However, Steve may be a liar, too, and his own father, who obviously loves him very much, even doubts him.

 

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