Owen in A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Owen Meany is by far the most complex character that John Irving characterizes in A Prayer For Owen Meany. From the exposition, Owen Meany is perplexed by society’s standards and this conflict builds his entire character. Owen Meany’s insight and contrasting points of View from the traditional society of rural New Hampshire sets a rebellious, but yet realistic, mood in the book. Meany’s self-crafted belief system sets him apart from the rest of the society he lives in.

Meany is first tested by society’s standards during the accidental death of John Wheelwright’s mother. Though the local community and the readers criticizes Owen Meany for his role in John Wheelwright’s mother’s death and expect Meany to feel ashamed to the point that his friendship with Wheelwright breaks apart, owen instead actually tries even harder to develop an excellent friendship with Wheelwrightt As the plot progresses, Owen is characterized more like a brother than a best friend to Wheelwright.

Owen is seen to devote almost everything, including his free time and academic potential, to Wheelwright, the same kid that should have been difficult to interact with after Owen killed his mother, Owen Meany-and any character that is characterized with at least some morals was expected to go through a certain “process” that is recommended after they have “killed” someone‘s mother. Owen Meany was expected by the characters in A Prayer For Owen Meany and the readers of the book to directly plead to the Wheelwright family for forgiveness and feel an intense and obvious amount of emotion and remorse towards the incident.

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Interestingly, Owen sees his role in the death as him as the symbol of ”God’s instrument,” essentially describing that his role in the death was intended by God and thus should not be something to be ashamed of.

It is truly situational irony when instead Owen Meany suggests such an interpretation of his role and expresses his remorse through awkward responses to Wheelwright about the death including the donation of his baseball cards and mortification of the armadillo and his private night visits to Wheelwright’s mother’s grave. Known as “The Voice,” to the readers of the school newspaper, Owen is able to express his opposition towards the standards of society the most when he writes in the school newspaper. John Irving’s characterization of Owen as the often teased on, poor, skinny midget with a funny voice does not parallel with any of the society’s expectations of what an influential figure in the community should be like. However, owen combats this complication by trying to change the community’s perspective on what an influential leader should be like and transition their old perspective to someone like him By writing articles that convey realism and parallel with what the community is feeling, but maybe is too afraid to express.

Owen is able to appeal to the community and capture the community’s respect. Owen realizes that perhaps someone at the school opposes that everyone is forced to eat fish on Fridays and a group of people oppose the new headmaster’s new official residence By tackling such opinions in a witty way and yet still introducing a rebellious mood with the articles, “The Voice,“ becomes the most popular student on campus. The characters with authority, particularly Headmaster White, often feel extremely threatened and uncomfortable because they expect that any school newspaper to be only filled with cliche’ and highly censored articles, a sharp contrast from Owen’s very opinionated and controversial editorials. These feelings develop external conflicts as the characters with authority become more compelled to censor Owen and Owen becomes more compelled to write more controversial editorials as he realizes the characters with authority are against him.

As the conflicts intensify, they progress into internal complications that push Owen Meany perhaps over the edge. By being valedictorian of his class and top student in New Hampshire, Owen has characterized himself as a role model (even when Owen does not necessarily consider himself to be a role model). Due to this characterization, Owen’s conflict with Mrs. Lish and the destruction of the Mary Magdalene statute causes an uproar within the community. The tone of the book shifts to total shock: shock from the common community members that the Valedictorian Owen Meany would insult a grown woman and destroy a holy symbol and shock from those who are close to Owen Meany that though they know Owen is normally much better behaved.

Owen would still probably be stripped of all of his achievements Owen’s nonchalant attitude and his decision to enlist in the Army ROTC program at the “academically inferior” University of New Hampshire are situational ironic reactions to the horrified and disappointing tones within the community. In John Irving‘s A Prayer From Owen Meany, the character of Owen Meany does not parallel with any of the traditional New Hampshire society’s standards and values. His attitude and reactions to certain situations are truly situational ironic. His rebellious attitude sparks conflicts that contrast to what readers and characters in A Prayer From Owen Meany would expect from a character with Owen’s characterization.

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Owen in A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. (2023, Apr 06). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/owen-in-a-prayer-for-owen-meany-by-john-irving/

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