What Is the Theme of the Book “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers?

One theme in Walter Dean Myers’ book “Monster” is the direction the lives of young black men in Harlem can take if they don’t have positive role models. Another theme finds the main character, Steve, reconciling who he is with who others think he is.

Steve Harmon is a 16-year-old black man on trial for murder. The prosecutor labels him a monster and promises to prove it by the end of the trial. Steve doesn’t feel like a monster. While he understands the role he played in a Harlem drugstore owner’s death, he also feels trapped by a system that hasn’t provided him with enough resources. To better understand himself and convince others that he is not a monster, he transcribes what happens in court into a movie script.

While writing the script, lines blur between what happened and what he wishes had happened. No longer a reliable narrator, Steve wrestles with who he wishes he was, who he is, who others think he is and who he knows he will become if found guilty.

Another theme is how a jury perceives a young black man on trial for murder, despite his defense attorney’s best efforts. “Monster” explores the idea that the justice system treats black men unfairly. The book also skirts the possibility that people automatically believe a black man is guilty if a white man or a police officer accuses him of a crime.