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Monster by Walter Dean Myers Analysis

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In the book Monster, by Walter Dean Myers, the readers explore the American legal system through the eyes of a young African American boy named Steve Harmon. The author does an impeccable job delivering the truth of the American judicial system to the readers, by showing them the hard truth: that the court system is color biased. No matter what principles our legal system is built on, there is still an overarching biased towards white people. This bias results in unfair treatment and judgment on people of color. Myer uses a special style of writing to appeal to the audience throughout the book. He narrates the story through Steve Harmon, which allows the audience to build a connection with the character and see him for the young boy he is. Allowing the readers to sympathize with Steve lets them see more to the story than just the black and white court case. But this style of writing allows readers to question the role of Steve’s narration. Since he leaves much of the full story out making the readers jump to conclusions about his character. Myer portrays the corrupt judicial system through Steve’s trail, by showing the readers how the American Judicial system portrays people of color differently than white men and women. This portrayal results in unfair treatment in the court system. Walter Dean Myers uses Pathos, Ethos, Logos to show the readers the unjust treatment that people of color receive in court and the automatic bias that is laid on people of color’s shoulders.

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Myers uses pathos to describe how inhumane the justice system treats people of color. Myers uses an interesting technique to represent pathos throughout the book. His main character Steve Harmon, a young African American boy, writes person journals throughout the book to bring the readers into his life and show them how he was being treated during his trial. The author uses this writing technique because it allows the readers to build a connection with Steve that the jury does not have. We can see Steve as more than a “monster” like some saw him. The prosecutor describes a monster to the jury as, “People who are willing to steal and to kill, people who disregard the rights of others.”  She compares this definition of a monster to Steve Harmon. This use of the word monster, allows the jury to value Steve Harmon as less than a person; allowing this dehumanization of his character allows the jury to look at the prosecutor’s case without looking at Steve as a human. This act of dehumanization hurts Steve’s character and reputation throughout the trail, making it hard for him to deliver his story to the jury. 

Due to the subconscious biased the jury already has on Steve, associating him with a monster hurts every last chance he has at showing his true colors to the jury. This is significant because it shows the nature of the trial as inhumane. In the trail, it is hard for Steve to be heard, but in his journals, he’s able to express himself. He can tell his story and try and convince the readers of his innocence. Due to this use of pathos we, the readers, can understand Steve’s character and sympathize with his situation. This is very significant to the development of the book. Without the use of pathos, the readers would see Steve as nothing more than a young man on trial for murder and overlook the humanistic values of him.

Not only does Myer’s use Pathos to deliver his point, but he uses the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise during the trial to prove his point. Ethos is evident throughout the whole trail. There is little to no evidence in the case, but due to the, he said she said nature of the trail and Steve’s skin color he is automatically presumed as guilty. Ethos shows the unethical biased in the American Judicial system. “You’re young, you’re Black, and you’re on trial. What else do they need to know?”.O’Brien, Steve’s attorney, brings up this issue with the court system and how the jury automatically sees Steve as guilty. Although every citizen of the United States of America is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, it doesn’t work like this for people of color. This quote is very significant because it sets the stage for how this fictional trail is going to be, but it is very comparable to today’s cases. An example of a color biased court system is the “People vs Turner” case. Brock Turner a former Stanford swimmer, raped an unconscious drunk woman after a fraternity party on campus in January of 2015.

 Due to the swimmer’s “potential future”, he was only sentenced to six months in jail. The judge of Turner’s case, Aaron Persky, mentioned the young man’s “extraordinary circumstances” and how his criminal record is clean, and due to these circumstances, he was granted a shortened sentence. Due to Turner’s skin color, he was awarded a special privilege: white privilege. Although many cases could be compared to this case, Cory Batey is the best example. Batey was another college athlete that raped an unconscious woman. Both Turner and Batey had almost identical cases, but one thing that set them apart: their skin color. Batey was sentenced fifteen to twenty-five years in prison. While Brock Turner was only sentenced to six months in jail. The quote from Monster and this real-life example are both very comparable to the point that Myers is trying to deliver; the judicial system is very color biased. Cory Batey’s case is a representation of the unethical treatment that people of color receive when on-trail. It shows how morally wrong our Judicial system favors white men and women, rather than obeying what our four fathers laid down for us; innocent until proven guilty.

Logos is also very present throughout Myer’s book. The case itself lacked facts and proof that tied Steve to the case. But due to the lack of evidence and a person to blame, Steve was appointed. There is a lack of sufficient evidence throughout the whole case, but due to Steve’s race, he is automatically judged by the jury and has a biased place on him. “Judge what they bring up on the witness stand, and then deliver your just verdict.” (Myers,pg?) This quote shows how although the jury judges the person based on how they act and look on the stand and that determines the verdict. Although not all witnesses are entirely telling the truth and not all verdicts are just. A real-life example of racial disparity in the American Judicial System is the Brown vs Mississippi case. In 1934, a white farmer was killed in Mississippi. Three men farmers: Ed Brown, Arthur Ellington, and Henry Shields were arrested for the crime. They were beaten and tortured into confessing to the crime. The police officers didn’t mention the torturing of the defendants, but they showed up in court in visible pain. The jury was comprised of all white people, which sentenced them to death by hanging. In 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions on the three men, due to lack of evidence. This ruling was historical for its time and allowed people of color to have a fighting chance in court. But the men were never fully dismissed the charges because they took pleas to escape further beatings and retrial. These two examples show how no matter how little evidence there is in a trail, people of color are automatically assumed guilty. This disadvantage is detrimental and causes unjustifiable consequences to innocent men and women.

In conclusion, Myers does a great job representing the color biased legal system that us American’s have. Although we are supposed to be bound to principles that support all groups and races, we use those characteristics as a factor of judgement in the legal system. This color biased makes it challenging for people of color to be heard. Myers use of pathos, ethos, and logos allow the readers to dive into the deeper issues of the color biased American court system.

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