As a rule, observing people in a courtroom in reality is beyond boring. Once the realm of the place where justice is supposed to serve is deprived of its mystery veil, it is rendered nearly mundane. However, “Monster” takes several steps further to examine the courtroom events, people, and even the entire justice system under a microscope to explore the social underpinnings of how African American people, particularly, young men, are tried and treated. Offering a brutally honest portrayal of racism prevailing in American society, “Monster” dissects the complex sociocultural relationships through the examination of the major themes of racism and justice and injection of minor themes of social ostracism, violence, and fear.
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The theme of racism coupled with the one of social injustice remains prevalent throughout the novel. For instance, the problem of the broken U.S. justice system is perfectly rendered in Steve’s commentary concerning the atrocities that guards commit against prisoners: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help” (Myers, 2000, p. 325). Therefore, the theme of justice – or, to be more specific, injustice – deeply intertwined with the phenomenon of racism portrayed in violence against African American prisoners. On a smaller scale, the themes of violence and fear are incorporated into the novel. Fear is seen as an inseparable part of the prison system, indicating that inmates are not viewed as human beings but, instead, are treated in the most inhumane way possible: “The jury might think they’re giving you a favor by giving you life in prison” (Myers, 2000, p. 12). Although rarely expressed directly, the theme of violence seeps through the lines, thus, constituting an important part of the setting.
By introducing a combination of the themes of injustice, racism, and violence, Myers’ (2000) “Monster” proves that the U.S. justice system is effectively broken. In society where racism defines one’s guilt or innocence, promoting fairness and equality is impossible. Therefore, while being quite brutal and riveting in its description of injustice, Myers’ (2000) book is important in understanding the nature and effects of the problem of racism within the justice system.
Myers, W. D. (2000). Monster. Amistad.