Harvey Johnson's Punishment In His Last Day Short Story

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Born on July 19, 1909, Chester Himes was an African-American writer that was jailed between 1929 to 1936 for armed robbery. Serving his sentence at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the experience of being a prisoner served as an inspiration for Himes’ short stories. More specifically, two of his short stories show how the main characters respond to their punishment while in prison. In “His Last Day”, the main character Spats puts on a mask that hides his fear of death and as the story progresses his inner fear starts to show. On the other hand, in “Money Don’t Spend In The Stir” Harvey Johnson can’t accept the fact that his bribes won’t get him released from prison. Although the two protagonists deal with their punishments differently, they both …show more content…

On the first page of “Money Dont Spend in the Stir” it states “I had already dug four years; but brother; the days have grown seven feet tall” (Himes 195). By mentioning “the days have grown seven feet tall” it illustrates that the days are long and subtly hints that Harvey Johnson is somewhat desperate to get out of prison. The start of Johnson’s decline is when he tries to bribe the Warden using a letter. As a result, Harvey Johnson got sentenced to “the hole” for thirty days. After that event Harvey Johnson learned his lesson and tries to be more careful by sticking around the convicts he knew. Eventually he meets a man called “Soapy” and Soapy guided Johnson to Mr. Zinker. By willing to meet Zinker, this emphasizes the idea that Johnson is still holding on to that hope that he will be able to be released early. Turns out Johnson was sent back to solitary for another two months (Himes 194). This is the second time that Johnson has been sent back to solitary for trying to bribe an official, but no where in the story does it mention that Johnson is doubting his chances of getting released early. This depicts that Johnson is still clinging onto the hope that he will have the chance to escape his punishment early. As the story continues it says “But by the time another year passed, the days were eleven feet tall, so help me. I was straining my conk thinking of how I could get out if only I said the word” (Himes 195). This displays that he is desperate to escape from jail and is fearful of future punishments when he attempts to bribe someone. Nearing the end of the story, Johnson still has this unfaltering hope that he will get out early by investing in war bonds. Johnson has this delusion that somehow he can be released early if he bribes the right people. He fails to see that it will not happen even after he has been sent to solitary 3 times

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