Future Predicament in A Prayer for Owen Meany

In most cases, it is impossible to know the future; however, the past can often be just as bewildering. John Irving conveys this to us through his character Owen in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” In this novel, we hear the tale of Owen Meany’s life through the stories of his best friend John Wheelwright. John often questions the past and its meaning and has trouble making peace with events that occurred during his childhood. Because of this, he is uninvolved in his current life and unable to let go of what has happened.

Troubles with letting go of the past are common and although it may seem hard to forgive and forget, sometimes it may be the best way to let go. When one has trouble letting go of the past, it is necessary for them to let go and focus on the present, in order to create a better future.  Although John has trouble getting stuck in the past, Owen finds himself often looking toward the future.

This is demonstrated when Owen lands the part of the Ghost of Christmas Future in the nativity pageant. As Owen tries to assuage Mr. Morrison to embrace his part as the ghost of Christmas’s future, he declares. This is a clever use of foreshadowing by Irving Unbeknownst to the readers at this point, Owen will see his own grave on the night of the pageant, and later in the book, it is described that he “knew everything yet to come.

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” Owen steals the show as the ghost of Christmas future and demonstrates the epitome of fear, even causing Maureen Early to wet her pants twice. In contrast, John is often extremely apathetic toward the future, while showing a strong connection to the past and an inability to move forward. The difference between these characters is helpful in showing the contrast between the Although it is clear that John has trouble letting go of the past, there are moments when his narration returns to his present life in Canada throughout the novel.

Towards the beginning of the book, it is extremely infrequent and the story is told mainly told through the events of his childhood. However, as the novel progresses, the narration is more frequently dispersed with diary entries from the present. For example, (he first presenteday diary entry is not until page 87 and lasts for only a page. In addition, John’s narration of a single childhood event can often go on for many pages, showing his internal torment his past, specifically events such as the nativity pageant, the baseball game, and the games he and Owen played at Gravesend Academy. This rambling narration shows just how haunted John is by the memories of Owen Meany, and how it affects his present-day life by making him unable to focus on current necessities. The diary entries become more periodic and then, on page 420 and 527 there are diary entries lasting for six or more pages describing the events in John’s present-day life.

This shows his personal growth in being able to focus more on the present and let go of the past. Lastly, the personal attitude towards the future of both characters is a significant factor in showing how they dealt with their lives. Owen has a repeated dream that depicts the exact situation of his death. Having this knowledge, instead of running away from the situation, Owen does everything in his power to prepare for the day. Instead of being scared by his own occult powers, he chooses to make the better of them and embrace this gift, which he was granted. John however, fears the future and does not like to look ahead. This can be seen in his lack of effort throughout high school and college, John’s grades were never spectacular and he did nothing to improve them, while Owen often encouraged him to work harder and put in more effort. As seniors in high school, Owen is accepted to Harvard and Yale, while John applies only to University of New Hampshire. Despite Owens encouragement, John does not feel that he is good enough for a better university. John constantly settles because he does not want to try harder in order to achieve anything better.

This apathetic attitude does nothing to help him create a better future for himself. Compared to Owen‘s preparedness and perspective toward the future, John is unconcerned with the future and focuses too much on the past. The past will always be a part of us, but we cannot let it define us. Throughout the novel, John learns this and he discovers that by focusing on the present, he can let go of the stress from being too involved in the past. Owen Meany was presented to John in order to teach him something about faith and believing in something. John says, “I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” The fact that he was so affected by the presence of Owen in his life, helps us understand why he has such issues with living in the past. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward; but it must be lived forwards.” This is applicable to John’s situation because once he learns to look toward the future, he will be able to make peace with the past.

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Future Predicament in A Prayer for Owen Meany. (2023, Apr 06). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/the-predicament-of-the-future-in-the-novel-a-prayer-for-owen-meany-by-john-irving/

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