Monster Summary and Analysis of A Family Affair


Steve’s father, Mr. Harmon, visits his son in jail. The two discuss Steve’s case, and Steve explains that he intends to convey his innocence to the jury. Mr. Harmon begins to tear up, and it is clear that he is not entirely sure that his son is innocent. Mr. Harmon explains that he never envisioned this situation for his son. Rather, he hoped Steve would follow in his footsteps and play football for his alma mater, Morehouse. Steve begins to weep, and his father attempts to reassure him. As the scene closes, Steve writes that he is haunted by seeing his father cry.

In his journal, Steve explains his shock at his father’s emotions. The narrator insists on his innocence, claiming that he only walked into the drugstore and was not involved in the crime. Steve begins to fear that both his father and O’Brien view him as a monster. Steve’s thoughts are interrupted by a flashback scene. In this scene, two neighborhood women discuss Mr. Nesbitt’s murder. After overhearing this discussion, Steve begins running from the basketball court.

At home, a news program reports the murder of Mr. Nesbitt. Steve watches in shock, while his brother plays innocently in the background. On the screen, Bobo appears in handcuffs, looking sullen. Steve is laying on his bed when his mother informs him that Detectives Williams and Karyl wish to speak to him. Steve is handcuffed and brought to the precinct. His mother watches worriedly as her son is escorted from the house.

In his journal, Steve writes again about the gruesome photos of the crime scene. Steve explains that he is terrified of the images. He expects that the jurors will be similarly affected by the photos of the crime scene. Steve is brought back to the present, where he is mopping the prison floors. He grows nauseous at this task and dreams of returning to his comfortable home.

Back in the courtroom, different witnesses are called to the stand. Among this group of witnesses are a City Clerk, a Medical Examiner, and Detective Williams. Detective Williams explains the procedure of “chalking the body.” The medical examiner explains the death in a tactical and scientific manner. Steve is clearly bothered by the medical examiner’s account, while James does not show any indication that he cares.

Steve’s journal entry reveals that he is bothered by O’Brien. Although he attempts to connect with her and show her his humanity, Steve suspects that O’Brien views him as a monster. He grows terrified at the prospect of spending twenty years, minimum, in jail if found guilty. Steve also reveals that he has suicidal thoughts. Steve’s mother visits him in prison. She cries uncontrollably and offers her son a bible. Before leaving the visit, she tells Steve that she believes in his innocence.

In a flashback sequence, Steve and James talk in a Harlem park. James claims that he needs to locate a “payroll crew” so that he can get money quickly. The scene transitions to the present-day. It is a Sunday morning, and Steve eats breakfast and plays baseball with fellow inmates. Steve’s parents come and visit him, and Jerry stands in the street trying to get a look at his brother.


This section delves into the residual effects of Steve’s arrest. Although Steve is the only person who experiences the prison conditions firsthand, Steve’s family (both individually and as a unit) suffer immensely as a result of his arrest. When Mr. Harmon visits Steve in prison, we learn that he had high hopes for his son to follow in his footsteps. Although he claims to champion Steve’s innocence, his emotional reaction reveals that he has his doubts. Steve recognizes his father’s attitudes and is thus overcome with feelings of abandonment and distrust.

Steve’s experience with his father also references the motifs of emotions and vulnerability that are so present in the novel. When Mr. Harmon visits the prison, Steve is reminded of his family dynamics. Thus, he behaves as a child. In this way, Steve is comfortable with expressing his sadness and his fears. However, when Steve leaves his visitation, he is haunted by the sounds of his father’s sobs. Mr. Harmon is overwhelmed by his pressure to be the strong patriarch of the family.

Steve fears being seen as a monster by those who love and support him. As the title of the novel, the concept of monstrosity is clearly significant in Steve Harmon's story. In one of the novel's opening scenes, Petrocelli calls Steve a "monster." Later, the defense calls the witnesses "monsters." Although Steve attempts to reject the idea that he is a monster, his family’s reactions to his arrest cause Steve to feel monstrous.

Steve’s experience with his father is shortly followed by his mother’s visit to the prison. While visiting, Mrs. Harmon insists that her son is innocent. However, she is clearly distressed when thinking about Steve’s safety and well-being while imprisoned. In the flashback scene where Steve learns of Mr. Nesbitt’s murder on the news, he describes discussing Batman and Robin with his younger brother, Jerry. Steve’s subsequent arrest shatters Jerry’s perception of his heroic brother. Steve feels guilty for causing his family to suffer.

In court, Steve stands in stark contrast to James King. He appears to be emotionally invested in his case, while King appears disinterested and uninvested. Steve’s consideration thus becomes a tactic for the defense. O’Brien tries to use Steve’s “character” and his creative interests to her side’s advantage. She aims to humanize Steve and make him look less “monstrous” in court.