"I know [my mama] loves me, but I wonder what she's thinking."
Steve expresses the uncertainty he feels regarding his family. Although Steve is adamant about defending his own innocence, he continually worries about how his arrest has affected his family's judgment of his morality. Although Mrs. Harmon expresses her unwavering support towards Steve, the protagonist's uncertainty reveals his own unrest. In this quote Steve also reveals his fear of abandonment. This fear is rooted in the intense isolation that Steve experiences while imprisoned.
"The dream took place in the courtroom. I was trying to ask questions and nobody could hear me. I was shouting and shouting but everyone went about their business as if I wasn't there."
While in jail, Steve has many nightmares. This particular dream is a frightening projection of how he feels throughout the course of the court proceedings. Due to the judicial process, Steve is unable to independently and candidly express himself. Rather, he must relinquish control and rely on O'Brien to tell his story. Steve feels trapped in his own thoughts, which further exacerbates his feeling of isolation.
"You use stories and you use people, right?"
O’Brien makes this statement while addressing Zinzi on the stand. On one hand, Zinzi is helping to shed light on the murder case. On the other hand, he has his own motivations for testifying. Thus, this quote emphasizes the survival instinct that is so prevalent among prisoners. In prison, individuals are incessantly threatened. Thus, prisoners will often use their peers as tools for survival. Tipping off a cop or twisting the truths of their own crimes can lead to shortened sentences. In this way, this quote addresses the two-fold motivations for witness testimonies.
"[…] in reality, it depends on how the jury sees the case."
Here, O’Brien addresses the harsh reality of the American court system. Although Steve wants to believe that the court will see him as "innocent until proven guilty," O'Brien explains that this statement is nothing more than an idealistic adage. Steve must grapple with the fact that his fate rests in the hands of strangers.
"We lie to ourselves here. Maybe we are here because we lie to ourselves."
This quote addresses the motif of deceit that is present throughout the story. In the story, lying is shown to have both detrimental and advantageous effects. Lying is the root of many problems in the judicial system, and fellow prisoners lie frequently under oath in order to get reduced sentences. However, lying is also a coping mechanism for prisoners to process their realities. For example, Steve lies to himself frequently in order to hold onto a sense of hope.
"His film footage shows me what he's seeing, and, to a large extent, what he's thinking. And what he sees, the humanity of it, speaks of a very deep character."
During the case, Mr. Sawicki testifies to Steve's character. Mr. Sawicki references Steve's films in order to defend his student in the court. This quote expresses the power of art and its connection to human nature. This quote prompts the audience to consider the validity of Mr. Sawicki's testimony. Is it valid to use one's art to justify one's character? To what extent is art an escape rather than a depiction of reality?
"They are all equally guilty. The one who grabbed the cigarettes, the one who wrestled for the gun, the one who checked the place to see if the coast was clear."
Petrocelli, the prosecutor, argues that all of the people involved in the burglary are equally culpable of the murder that resulted. This assertion prompts the reader to question the validity and the moral implications of this statement. Is the person who surveyed the scene as culpable as the person that shot and killed Mr. Nesbitt?
"I think I finally understand why there are so many fights. In here, all you have going for you is the little surface stuff, how people look at you and what they say."
Steve describes how the conditions of jail are different than the conditions of the real world. Steve is consistently wary of the violence he experiences while in prison. However, he recognizes that heightened vulnerability is met with heightened defense. Steve's observation of his environment further demonstrates how he desires to distance himself from his surroundings.
"It's like his man looking down to see his son and seeing a monster instead."
Steve addresses his fraught relationship with his father. Steve can sense his father's disappointment due to his involvement in the crime, despite Steve's assertion that he is innocent. Once Steve is accused of being an accomplice, his father loses his confidence and trust in his son. This father-son dynamic reveals the detrimental effects that prison has on an entire family.
"Who was Steve Harmon? I wanted to open my shirt and tell her to look into my heart to see who I really was, who the real Steve Harmon was."
Steve addresses his confusion and frustrations concerning his relationship with O'Brien. Although O'Brien is his lawyer, Steve feels as though she does not truly believe in his innocence. Rather, she has a pre-set view of Steve's character and does not view him as a unique person. Steve strives for O'Brien to see him as a human rather than a monster, thus revealing Steve's own struggle with his sense of himself.
Monster Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Monster is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.