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Monster by Walter Dean Myers Literary Analysis

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The US justice system brings an aura of brutalizing nature. In Walter Dean Myers’s story Monster, the main character Steve Harmon, depicted as a “monster,” fights for not just his trial, but also his true personality. He is accused of participating in a felony murder act in a robbery in a drugstore. Because of this, Steve fights the inner conflict to keep his mental body intact, even after being proven innocent. In the end, Walter Dean Myers uses how Steve essentially “uncharacterized” through life in prison and the unfair prejudice in the court to prove how dehumanizing the US justice system is.

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Steve’s life in prison during his trial for a false, race-driven accusation is a way to show the flaws in the US justice system. When Steve has to work in the prison by mopping the corridors, the guards show him no compassion for being a young adolescent being tried as an adult, who “had to mop the corridors with four other guys… couldn’t breathe… started gagging. ‘You vomit – you just got more to clean up!’ the guard said” . The way the guard treated him by telling him that vomiting would only give him more to clean up was a cruel, cold way to convey the message to do the job. As a result of this constant treatment, the reader can clearly see why, and how, Steve lost his personality, why he wants to look at himself “a thousand times for one true image” .

When in court, Steve is judged as a guilty criminal because of his background. The racism and stereotypical prejudices against black people led to others forming a preconception about Steve Harmon: “Half of those jurors, no matter what… believed you were guilty the moment they laid eyes on you. You’re young, you’re Black, and you’re on trial. What else do they need to know?” . Although the Sixth Amendment forbids a biased jury, this is not the way it is in this case. Because of the fact that Steve comes from Harlem, where “people getting killed and everything”  is normal, where the neighborhood resident “ain’t shocked none”, and where “[the neighbors] killed a little girl just about 2 months ago and she was just sitting on her stoop” , he is basically guilty by association.

When one considers the effects of life in prison and the bias in court for being tried, it is clear that the US justice system is flawed in its nature. Most people in the USA are taught to embrace only the flawless aspects of the US justice system; however, Walter Dean Myers unveils the truth behind the harsh, cold nature of the system. Just as accurate as the US justice system seems to be, its inaccuracy could be the difference between life and death for a human being.

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