Irving & Owen Meany: Similarities & Differences

John living, the author ofA Prayer for Owen Meany, uses his background and childhood to affect the plot of the novel. Although there are many things that make his life in the past different than the lives of the characters in the book, there are some similarities as well, which show where Irving may have gotten some of his ideas from. The life of Johnny, the main character in the novel, lives a life very similar to the life Irving lived in the past Irving’s writing style is very descriptive.

He writes a way that readers will be able to perfectly picture what he‘s describing. His writing style is influenced by Charles Dickens, because of a love for his writing (Wood). A Prayer for Owen Meany was written from the perspective of the main character, Johnny Wheelwright, as an adult, looking back on the adventures he had during his childhood. Johnny and Owen did many things with each other such as playing with a stuffed armadillo and spending most of their time at Johnny’s grandmother’s house.

As they got older, their adventures continued. They did much more together, such as Owen using a diamond wheel to cut off Johnny’s finger (to prevent being deployed to war), attempts to get girlfriends, and simply talking to each other about almost everything. Throughout the story, Johnny flashes back on the many incidents that happened with him and his best friend Owen. It is implied that Owen has a dwarfish figure, and that he’s very small.

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Owen had a very high pitched voice, which was unlike any others, He was also in love with Johnny’s mother, who he eventually ended up killing after she got hit with a flying baseball that he’d hit. Owen believed that he was God’s instrument, causing him to be okay with his differences. He had an unbelievable amount of faith, which he brought to Johnny throughout their lives, the whole story was describing how Owen made Johnny believe in God.

Owen was born because of Immaculate Conception, the same way Jesus had been known to have been born, Johnny spends most of the story in search for his biological father He’d never known him, and after his mother died had no way of finding out who he was. He was adopted by his step- dad, Dan Needham, though, His real father was eventually found at the end, though After Owen died, he‘d possessed Johnny’s dad (Reverend Lewis Merril) and spoke through him, giving him the clue that lead to Johnny knowing who his real father was, Both children eventually grew up, and ended up being more independent with their separate career choices Johnny ended up being a teacher, while Owen brought the bodies of the fallen soldiers back home from Vietnam during the war that was going on. Owen had a dream leading him to think he’d die in Vietnam, which in fact was a little different than the way he actually died.

Owen had passed away by catching a grenade that blew up in his arms, in order to save the Vietnamese children that came to America. This left Johnny to himself, having no one left except Dani Johnny ended up moving to Canada though, where he was when he was recollecting on his childhood According to Barbara Rimkunas, from the Exeter Historical Society, lrving didn’t straight out say anything about basing parts of the book on his personal childhood. The story is fiction, but comparing the story to his personal biography shows that some parts actually were true about his real life, or based on things he‘d experienced. John Irving spent his childhood living in Exeter, New Hampshire, He’d lived with only his mother, and later on his step-father for most of his life, having never known his father (other than when he was two years old). He’d attended Phillip’s Exeter Academy, and suffered from dyslexia, making school difficult for him at some points.

He grew up to eventually graduate college, start a family, and have a career in writing. There’s been proof that many of his books include similar subjects with his others. Some recurring topics he tends to write about are characters that are writers, there being an absent parent, the mother of the main character dying (which is strange since his mother is actually still alive as of now), and the characters living in New England. The differences are even closer when comparing his actually life, to the book A Prayer for Owen Meany, though (“Wood”), When picking a setting for this book to take place, he decided to choose his home town, Exeter, yet changed the name to “Gravesend” when writing about it He seemed to really like the setting of this section of New England, and was able to write about it in great detail from personal experience and witnessing exactly how it looked, for years. Some landmarks in this town are talked about in “Gravesend” which shows where he got the ideas from, such as the academy and the church that he wrote about Owen and Johnny attending.

There was actually a real man named John Wheelwright who lived in Exeter as a reverend, He was actually the founder of Exeteri He‘d come a long time ago to, so long ago that he’d brought settlers with him Exeter had been a place to go for people needing to escape religious persecution, which is interesting to know since the book has a lot of religious references Exeter was also a place some of the war soldiers went during the French and Indian war, This is similar to the book because of the fact that Owen was involved in the war, but the Vietnam War instead (“Visiting“). Owen being such a big character, it’s interesting to learn that there was no real person in Irving’s life that he based his fictional character on. Also according to the Exeter Historical Society, there have been findings of there being a smaller kid in photographs Irving was also in as a child, but apparently Owen wasn’t based on him.

The only similarity between Owen and Irving‘s real life is the voice- the high pitched tone of Owen, was a voice Irving used to joke around with; something he’d made up on his own long before writing the book, Irving’s personal life was something he wrote about in the story, which was realistic to his childhood in ways. Not only did the character take his name, John, but both Irving and his “fictional” character had missing fathers Irving had spent a lot of his life in search for his biological father, as Johnny had done the same. No one had any information on John‘s father either, not even his grandmother, and it was the same way in Irving’s real life, Either that, or it was something they simply didn‘t feel comfortable talking about. Irving based Johnny on himself when he created Johnny’s personality to be secluded, and to be a person who kept to himself, since that’s the way he’d been as a child because of having a missing father, Irving and John also both had mothers who‘d remarried, to who became the adopted father.

This man worked at the academy too, which was the reason for Irving and Johnny attending there, Both John’s also attended the University of New Hampshire, and eventually moved to Toronto, Canada Irving still lives there now, and John had lived there at the end of the story as well (“Academy“). The actual plot of the book didn’t seem to be too similar to the plot of Irving’s life The plot of A Prayer for Owen Meany was about how Owen brought Johnny to believing in God, and a little bit about the war. There had been a war going on during Irving’s childhood, but it was World War II, not the Vietnam War, which was talked about in the book, There hasn’t been much found that was documented on Irving’s religious beliefs, though. It was more of the smaller details in the book that compared to be similar to Irving’s real life, than it was the actual plot and events of the story, those were completely fictional. That was probably the biggest difference between Irving’s life and the life of Johnny, the fact that the main ideas in both these people’s lives were different.

By learning about Irving‘s personality from websites and reading all about Johnny’s too, it seems as if the characters are pretty much the same, it‘s just some of the things they experience that are different (“Academy”). Irving must have made his fictional character similar to him on purpose though; the exact reason is just unknown or may be personal to him, if he has a reason at all for writing this way. Although there are many similarities between A Prayer for Owen Meanyand the life John Irving lived, there are also many differences that show that the life of Johnny wasn‘t completely based on Irving’s personal life. The book wouldn’t be the way it was though, if it wasn’t for Irving experiencing some of the things he did. Irving’s past adds a lot of details to the story, making it more interesting to read and lets the reader connect with the characters in better ways, knowing things about the character that may not be included otherwise. Along with this book, Irving includes his personal life in most of his other stories (“Facts”), making the fact that he did this time not unusual at all. The parts of this particular story that are realistic to Irving’s life take place mainly in his childhood, and make the book simply much more interesting to read

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Irving & Owen Meany: Similarities & Differences. (2023, Apr 06). Retrieved from

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