I brought home Walter Dean Myers’ Monster about a week before he died. I’m not kidding.
The theme of this post is a little broad, but bear with me.
I’ve been wanting to read Monster since it was first published. Because my reading list can wrap around the world twenty times, I finally got around to it last month. This novel isn’t so much a novel as it is a screenplay and a diary. It’s both easy to swallow and hard to digest. Allow me to elaborate.
Our hero, Steve, has been charged with murder. What makes this book great for people to study in school is the argument whether being employed as a lookout for a robbery, without being present while the robbery was taken place, can or can’t adjudicate him as an accomplice in an accidental murder. From the very beginning, we see how being in jail has transformed this teenager. Once someone in court passively calls him a monster, the word sticks with him and affects how he views everything going on with the case.
Courtroom scenes are always very dry to me, but the strange part about this book is that these were the easiest to read. Where Steve is an amateur director within this art form, he is his own master in the journals that go between each scene. These were the most potent portions of the book, second only to the surprise pictures (SURPRISE!). We hear about life in jail, conversations in the waiting room before sessions of the trial, and how Steve believes his family sees him.
My view is that Steve isn’t guilty. I find this to be the truth because I followed the trial. This was the intention of Steve (or Myers): “watch” the film and make your own decision. This was the intention of the story behind the story.
Because I read this just before the comic Injustice: Gods Among Us and the manga Naruto*, the concept of “monster” came together well. Steve’s view is the most complicated portrayal of these concepts because he’s the most innocent of all the characters I’m going to highlight here.
In second place is Superman. (Full spoilers ahead!) After his family members are killed, he takes it upon himself to rid the world of crime. Some of the means he uses to justify this long-lived revenge is waging war on other heroes and allowing other heroes to kill. He’s certainly not as innocent as Steve here, even if he is Superman. Some heroes side with the new ideals that are placed, some against. Grieving can be violent sometimes, but I have to side with Bruce here (because Batman). What’s even more cool is Steve’s references to superheroes while recalling a time of innocence. The theme of this post nearly made itself.
Another monster in this comic is clearly the Joker for committing his crimes in the first place. I can compare him easily to Naruto because each of them loves tricks and has a wicked dark side when they really want to. While the Joker is obviously evil, Naruto is the hero of his tale even though he’s the personal cage for a demon fox that once ravaged the town. All the townspeople despise him for his hijinks almost as often as they abhor him for his role in their spiritual world. Even if the Joker is much more evil, he’s always more alluring than any manga/anime character, and I defend this statement.
As if all of these stories weren’t comparable enough, a novel I’m about to (finally) read is Demon In My View, which features vampires.
This challenge will be extended to August 18th because I’m having so much fun! I also promise, for real this time, I will lay off the Batman.
* I can totally justify reading Naruto. Toonami on Cartoon Network advertises the dubbed anime all the time, and each commercial annoys me. I chose to read the manga in order to steer my mind away from the annoying voices. The manga is decent, but I don’t understand the mystic ninjutsu enough to continue the series. Airbending and such is one thing, but the author seemed to be making shit up as they went.