Chapter 7 Summary
The seventh chapter of Monster is dominated by Harmon’s diary entries, in which he continues to detail life in prison and explores the meaning of guilt. He explains that all of the inmates talk about sex, violence, or their case. At first, Harmon was primarily worried about being raped or attacked. However, now he finds himself thinking more about the time he is facing if he is found guilty of murder. Some people will be sentenced with seven to ten years in prison, which they count as five with parole. Harmon faces a life sentence that might be cut down to twenty years. His youth will be lost.
He considers the nature of guilt and tells some of the stories he has heard from other inmates. He tells the story of Ernie, a Cuban who was caught in the act of robbing a jewelry store. He had taken the money and jewels and locked the employees in a back room. However, the front door would only open if someone pushed a buzzer, and Ernie was caught before he could find it. Ernie feels that he is guilty of nothing because he did not take the jewels from the store. Harmon reflects that these men are trying to convince themselves they are not guilty.
These distinctions over guilt recall Harmon’s alleged involvement in the drug store robbery. Before the end of the chapter, Harmon’s film shows John King asking Harmon to be a lookout for the robbery. King teases Harmon that he is too “lame” to pull off a lookout job. He pushes Harmon to commit by asking, “Are you in or out?” The chapter ends before he can respond to the peer pressure.
It is worth noting that the chapter starts with Harmon arguing with himself. He asks himself what he has done, saying:
I walked into a drugstore to look for some mints, and then walked out. What was wrong with that? I didn’t kill Mr. Nesbitt.
Another inmate has been found guilty after confessing to murder. Harmon responds by asking, “Isn’t that what being guilty is all about? You actually do something?” Unfortunately, if Harmon was indeed a lookout, the law calls for him to be punished equally alongside John King for murder.
The seventh chapter of Monster also includes a visit from Steve’s mother. She has brought him a Bible and has highlighted passages for him to read. However, when Harmon uses prison slang in front of his mother, saying that some of the inmates have been in jail for a “calendar year,” his mother looks at him with discomfort. However, she assures her son of her unwavering love for him. Afterward, he reflects:
She felt that I didn’t do anything wrong. It was me who wasn’t sure. It was me who lay on the cot wondering if I was fooling myself.