A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer For Owen Meany By John Wheelwright

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Wheelwright reflects on all the impactful memories he experienced throughout his childhood, highlighting the ones he shared with his best friend Owen Meany. During the course of this novel these characters enter a transition from childhood to adulthood, losing their innocence and gaining a sense of maturity through the events they are forced to endure. They are seen in a period of growth, overcoming the obstacles of adolescence, puberty, loss, discovering where they belong and who they should be. This coming-of-age novel depicts John Wheelwright’s journey into becoming the best and better version of himself as he conquers the challenges of life.

A Prayer for Owen Meany ticks off all the boxes to be considered a coming-of-age novel. It follows John Wheelwright along in life from being a child to a full grown adult. He is thrust into this rollercoaster at an early age, particularly due to the killing of his mother, Tabby Wheelwright. A mother is the one lifeline a character can hold onto and allow themselves to be a child, no matter how grown a person is they will always be a baby in the mother’s eyes. John was stripped of this before his teenage years which was the first factor that forced him to grow up, to lose the light in his eyes far earlier than the children his age. He was forced to endure the tragedies of life most experience in their middle ages. The first sign of his maturity is shown when he doesn’t hold a grudge against Owen for his mother’s death, an act many would not take. “God knows, Owen gave me more than he ever took from me – even when you consider that he took my mother”. Having Owen as a friend was a kickstart in John’s spiritual journey, the bond they shared helped him have faith and a connection with God. He was able to withstand tragedies rather than escalating them and he didn’t blame Meany for his mother’s death. Instead he was emotionally mature enough to cope with the turn of events and allowed his friendship with Owen to strengthen as a result.

John Wheelwright reached a higher level of emotional and spiritual maturity than many of the children his age due to his friendship with Owen and the way his life turned before his teenage years, yet he struggled to mature sexually. Physically, he turned out like any other ordinary boy going through puberty, it was his mental approach that suffered a setback. At a young age, Wheelwright crushed on his cousin Hester Eastman and engaged in conversations with Owen regarding his mother’s physical body. “…the game called “Last One Through the House of Hester”; maybe they realized, later, that I began to intentionally lose the game”. Even later, during the first Christmas Eve without his mother, he develops lustrous feelings for one of the maids in his home. His sexuality was damaged after the events of his mother and when Hester didn’t reciprocate his feelings for her. Wheelwright believes any bodily desires that sprung upon him were the results of his father’s “evil” that was passed onto him. This proves he took more time to sexually mature as he blamed his lustrous feelings on his absent father rather than come to terms that it was his body’s natural urges during puberty.

The reason for John’s spiritual maturity rests solely on Owen Meany’s shoulders. Meany was the cause of the rise and questioning of his faith in God, along with many of the other characters in the novel. Wheelwright is proven to have gained a better sense of spiritual maturity throughout the book because he gains the courage to face the truth regarding himself and his past. In the midst of the novel he shows a burning interest in finding his father in a hope it’ll answer his questions from his mother to his unexplained lustrous thoughts. In contrast to the beginning, where he appeared frustrated with Meany’s attempts of saying God used him as an instrument to Tabitha’s death, he accepts it near the ending. He eventually did believe God played a part when He created Owen Meany, claiming his voice was high-pitched and his height short so he wouldn’t appear intimidating but rather safe to the Vietnamese children he would in time save.

John Irving wrote A Prayer for Owen Meany with the intent of it being perceived as a coming-of-age novel as highlighted by the recurring themes of emotional, sexual, and spiritual development. Through the audience’s eyes, John Wheelwright is faced with obstacle after obstacle that chips at his innocence until there is nothing left. He is forced to grow up at a rapid pace following the events after his mother’s death and finally nears the end of his adolescence when he loses the last lifeline to his childhood, Owen Meany. Every tragedy that occurs gives Wheelwright a new lesson to be learned in life, which he takes in stride and uses to become the best version of himself.

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My Story in Religion and My Thoughts in a Prayer For Owen Meany

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

I was born in a very religious family. My grandparents were christians, as well as my parents. My father was not so close to religion as my mother. My mother took me to the church sometimes when I was little. I didn’t like it at the time, it felt like it lasted an eternity at the time. But things changed, we stopped going to church. I don’t know if we stopped because of lack of time or because my parents just didn’t want to go anymore. The years were passing, I was seeing my family fighting with each other, and getting crazy with religion. That happened frequently, and for years, I thought the cause for all of that was specifically religion, and I just wanted to get far from it.

One year ago, my parents announced that I would study in Contra Costa Christian School, in America. At first, I was scared of what was going to happen next, I had no idea of how it was going to be like, but my parents told me to be open to that experience, even though I didn’t like religion at all.

When I finally went to the school itself, I got very impressed, people were very friendly and kind, but it was still too soon to get any opinion on religion. My first experiences in the school with christianity were not bad, but I was still very confused. The months were passing, and the Spiritual Retreat came. When some people told their stories in the chapel, I changed my way of seeing religion, it was not a bad thing for me anymore. After the Spiritual Retreat, some people were still telling their stories in religion, and that kept getting me a better view over religion.

Today, I believe I’m a Christian, I believe in God’s words, follow them, and I still want to spread it to other people. I want to show people that passed through the same situation as me, curing them from blindness. I passed from a non-believer, and a hater, to a follower of God, and think many people passed or are passing through the same situation. I know this school will still change me a lot.

A Prayer for Owen Meany has characters that reflect a lot about religion, and it makes you think very deeply about communities, your relationship with God, and how you communicate with him.

Owen is the most reflexive character, and he questions the Christians communities a lot. He refers to them as unnecessary and stupid, because they don’t go through prayers and the bible the way he goes, and that pisses him off. That makes me think about church communities a lot, if I’m in the right one, if they follow a solid and good flow, and if they really care about what they’re claiming and praying for. It is a very complicated and delicate theme to talk about.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, even not being a completely religious book, it makes us reflect deeply about our religion choice, and how we should share our beliefs with others.

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Irving’s Owen Meany: Protagonist’s Intelligence in Prayer

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

In A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving, Owen possesses an extraordinary amount of intelligence at a young age. After soaring through high school, besides the hiccup of his expulsion, he continues life with a career in the military to fulfil God’s plan. Despite all of the changes in his life, Owen never loses his remarkable literary love and comprehension, and helps Johnny confront his most difficult task yet- the dreaded Master’s thesis.

Owen Meany excelled in all school subjects, and had a bright, young, motivated mind. He especially made use of these talents in high school English class to show remarkable understanding of difficult texts and to aid Johnny in the improvement of his below-average intelligence. Even though Owen does not pursue a career utilizing his above-average language abilities, he still makes use of it “ ‘ TO BEGIN, YOU SIMPLY TAKE ONE OF HIS BLUNT OBSERVATIONS AND PUT IT TOGETHER WITH ONE OF HIS MORE LITERARY OBSERVATIONS–YOU KNOW, ABOUT THE CRAFT LIKE THIS ONE: ‘A STORY MUST BE EXCEPTIONAL ENOUGH TO JUSTIFY ITS TELLING. WE STORYTELLERS ARE ALL ANCIENT MARINERS, AND NONE OF US IS JUSTIFIED IN STOPPING WEDDING GUESTS, UNLESS HE HAS SOMETHING MORE UNUSUAL TO RELATE THAN THE ORDINARY EXPERIENCES OF EVERY AVERAGE MAN AND WOMAN’ ’ ” (Irving 519). Irving alludes to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” which furthers Owen’s continued attachment to his extraordinary literary knowledge and understanding. Additionally, this reference exemplifies Owen’s dedication to Johnny. Throughout their school years, when Johnny struggles, especially in English class, Owen was always around to bail him out. Owen never turned down a situation in which he could help his best friend, especially one involving a subject in which his knowledge was quite mature and extensive.

Through the employment of allusion in this novel, Irving conveys the hardships Owen encounters, but also his courage to endure difficult situations. This also serves to compares the story that plagues the Mariner’s life to the experience of Owen’s own life. The Mariner embarks on a treacherous sea journey along the way encountering Death and trying to avoid it while contrastingly, Owen confronts life ready and willing to face death. In a manner more similar to the Mariner, Johnny also faces a rough sea and just only sticks around for the journey out of pressure and necessity. Furthermore both the Mariner and Johnny reveal their seemingly woeful tales to anyone who may lend an ear to listen, no matter how unsuspecting or innocent. This allusion also reinforces the role Johnny plays in this novel. Johnny is similar to the Mariner in that he is timid, and just happens upon unfortunate circumstances with no control in his life whatsoever. They then both choose to share their peculiar tales as storytellers. The parallels and contrasts of Johnny and the Mariner give a deeper, intellectual connection to the overall story, just like Owen Meany

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The Incidental Depiction of Jesus Christ by John Irving In, a Prayer for Owen Meany

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is full of symbols that help reveal information about the characters and themes in the novel. The most prominent symbol is Owen Meany.

Owen is directly and indirectly represented as Jesus throughout the novel. In a Christmas pageant of 1953 at his church, he is cast for the part of Baby Jesus. Owen receiving this role in the play serves as a direct correlation between Owen and Jesus. This is also this most obvious sign that Owen is meant to be a Christ-like figure. In the same year, Owen receives the role of The Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol. During the last performance of this production, Owen sees a tombstone with his name and apparent date of death. Jesus was aware of when he was going to die, and now Owen is too. Another very straightforward connection between the two are the circumstances surrounding Owen’s birth. After Owen’s death, his parents admit to John in a conversation that Owen was not of natural birth; he was a miracle child. They tell John that Owen had been a virgin pregnancy, similar to that of Jesus.

There are also not so obvious implications that suggest that Owen is a Christ-like figure. Owen Meany is a religious individual who very much believes in fate. In fact, he believes that he has been chosen by God to ensure the fates of everyone else. Owen believed that he interrupted the Angel of Death from taking John’s mother, Tabitha, in her sleep, which is why he ended up being the one to kill her. Owen also makes John practice a basketball move he refers to as “The Shot” with him until it is perfect. He does this because he knows how he is going to die, and that this move will help him save others when the time comes. He believes that when he dies it will be beneficial to others and potentially even save them. Owen died saving others, and Jesus died for the sins of others; their deaths are eerily similar.

Owen stands out from his peers from the beginning of the novel. Even when he speaks it is written differently than when other characters speak. This is done to make Owen stand out as unusual; he is different than the others. Along with that, Owen appears to have this power over others that allows him to influence them. The separation between Owen and his peers serves as a representation of Owen as a higher power.

The most distinguished theme in A Prayer for Owen Meany is faith. Faith is on every page of the book from start to finish. Owen himself represents the very person whom faith revolves: Jesus Christ. He is like a preacher of religion to his peers, without legitimately being a preacher. His life, and life circumstances cause those around him to have faith. John states that he is only a believer in religion because of Owen Meany. John was able to see Owen develop into the Christ-like symbol that he is first hand. He saw and was involved with Owen’s sacrificial death, which causes him to make a decision about his own views on religion and faith.

Another main theme in the novel is family. Family tells the reader a lot of information about John and Owen as the story goes on. John is a Wheelwright, a well off family that can trace its origins back to the voyage of the Mayflower. John was born into a privileged life, but is still deprived of information that is vital to his existence. Owen tells John that God will one day help him find out the true identity of his father. John had hoped his mother would tell him the answer, but her fate was secured by Owen before she had the chance to. Owen’s parents are more in the background of his life than normal parents. He has the dominating position in his relationship with them. This is because he is meant to be further represented as a higher power.

The symbol of Owen Meany as a Christ-like figure in A Prayer for Owen Meany helps develop the themes faith and family throughout the novel. Owen’s miraculous life affects all the people he is close to. His status as a symbol of Jesus shines through in all aspects of his life and makes others have faith as well.

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An examination of the cowardice of the character Johnny in A prayer for Owen Meany

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, protagonist Johnny experiences outward conformity while inwardly questioning throughout the duration of his entire life. An exemplar of cowardice, Johnny uses passive aggression and the voices of others to disguise his inability to take a stand. The tendency of Johnny to silently question while taking no action creates the trait of cowardice that dominates his character throughout the entirety of the novel.

It is said that “actions, not words, create change”. Johnny, although inwardly critical of the Vietnam War, not only took no actions to create a change, but was not even vocal or expressive about his feelings. In a time dominated by protests, rallies, and demonstrations, Johnny could not even bring himself to voice his distain for the war, expressing that “even when the Anglicans asked me what I thought of Prime Minister Pearson’s “old point of view”…. I actually said I agreed! Eve though- as I’ve admitted- I’d never met a harsh deserter, not one” (463). The generation of the Vietnam soldiers, upon return to America, worked to create an America that supported and listened to those who had, previously, not been listened to. Arizona Senator John McCain is just one example. McCain, unsatisfied with the war and the treatment of those who served, ran for office to combat these issues with more productive policy. Johnny never shared his opinion, let alone took action to combat the problems in society that he saw. Because Johnny was inwardly critical of the Vietnam War, but did not take any actions to create change, he was a coward.

Prior to the Vietnam War, Johnny conformed to agree with his classmates within the Academy, leaving the questioning to Owen and The Voice. “I did, or tried to do, everything Owen did” (287), said Johnny, dependent on Owen to be outspoken due to his inability to use language and speak well. As Johnny struggled throughout his educational career to succeed in English, reading, and writing, he was willing to give Owen the power to speak on his behalf. “The Voice was our voice; he championed our causes; he made us proud of ourselves in an atmosphere that belittled and intimidated us” (295). Johnny was dependent on Owen to vocally question events and standards, even though Johnny shared the same criticisms and questions Owen did about society. Johnny was too much of a coward and simply lacked the confidence and ability to say so. He settled for conformity, never voicing his true feelings. Thus, the inward criticism and outward conformity spurred from his dependence on Owen and struggle in English and made Johnny a coward.

Johnny is also a coward because he cared more about impressing people than standing up for his own beliefs. This standard led him to a life of inward criticism, and outward conformity. “I never actually said— to any of my Canadian friends— that I suspected these deserters were no more likely to become “public charges” than I was likely to become such a charge. By then, Canon Campbell has introduced me to old Teddybear Kilgore, who had hired me to teach at Bishop Strachan. We Wheelwrights have always benefited from our connections” (463). While working in a church and dedicating his life to teaching both English and the value of Christ, Johnny preaches morality and Christian superiority. However, this message conflicts with his actions as he inwardly criticized the war that represented the opposite of morality, while outwardly conforming in his words of support. Johnny placed more value on his societal status and networking abilities, thus hindering his ability to stand up for what is right, even if it means standing alone, leading to a lifetime of conformity.

Johnny’s interpretation of history and political issues showcases his cowardice. “When some of the Grace Church on-the Hill Anglicans asked me what I thought of Prime Minister Pearson’s “old point of view”— that the deserters (as opposed to the war resisters) were in a category of U.S. citizens to be discouraged form coming to Canada- I actually said I agreed! Even though- as I’ve admitted – I’d never met a harsh deserter, not one” (463). The “Church on-the Hill Anglicans” is a reference to John Winthrop’s speech, A City on a Hill, from the founding and settlement of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop said that “America was to be a City on a Hill”, a model of superiority and moral purity. The phrase was used by both Presidents Kennedy and Reagan in major speeches. Johnny does not hide his love for Kennedy and despise for Reagan; his views strongly reflect the environments in which he was in- the popular opinion of the Academy strongly favored Kennedy, while the views of Canada in his time there did not support Reagan because of America’s involvement in Vietnam. The fact that both men had the same outlook on America shows Johnny’s cowardice as he is unable to go against what is popular and accepted in his environment. Johnny is a product of his environment as he cherry picks who he will criticize and who he will admire, thrusting him into a cycle of outward conformity.

Over the course of his life, Johnny conformed to be like those surrounding him, while questioning society inwardly. A lifetime of silent protest and dependence on those around him to voice their opinions and teach him what to think caused him to be a coward and unable to form and voice his own opinions.

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Overcoming Temptations and Sin by Owen Meany

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

Owen Meany is a character who commands attention, not only because of his small stature and high-pitched voice, but also because of his blind and undying faith in God. Yet, even with his God-like qualities, Owen’s attraction to John’s mother, Tabitha, and cousin, Hester, continue to make Owen human, despite his belief that he is an instrument of God. In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, the similarities between Tabitha and Hester represent Owen’s lifelong battle with temptation.

One major similarity between Tabitha and Hester is the fact that they are both important parts of John’s life. In some ways, they represent the underlying jealousy that Owen has for Johnny. Owen, although he has two parents, is not nearly as loved as Johnny is by his mother. Because of this, Owen is constantly craving the attention of Tabitha who mothers him the way he never is by his own parents. Owen’s selfishness when it comes to Tabitha is seen later on when he refuses to part with the dummy that had belonged to her before she died. Similarly, Owen also experiences jealousy towards Johnny’s relationship with his cousins, who he frequently visits at Sawyer Depot. This can be see in the lines, “Owen was extremely irritable regarding the time I spent with my cousins…I thought he was jealous” (60). Owen and Hester’s relationship later on continues to leave Johnny isolated, as Owen often spends the night at her apartment rather than with him. Owen’s selfishness when it comes to Tabitha and Hester represent a human side to him unlike his usual purity and almost god-like manor.

Aside from being major parts of Johnny’s life, the two women are also similar in that they are both very attractive. Tabitha is often described as beautiful which can be seen in the lines, “Tabby Wheelwright looked like a starlet—lush, whimsical, easy to talk into anything” (38). Owen himself admits to finding Johnny’s mother attractive on several occasions. Often compared to a feline, Tabitha is not only beautiful, but manipulative as well. While she never purposely manipulates other people, they seem to be almost mesmerized by her charm. Her subtle ability to control people can be seen in the lines, “She had such a sweet-tempered disposition, it was impossible to stay angry with her. She never appeared to be as assertive as she was” (15). In a way, Owen accidently killing her represented his attempt to escape from his temptation. However, this is never truly achieved because of his lust for Hester later on. Like Tabitha, Hester is also very attractive. Even at a young age, Hester seems to radiate a sense of sexuality that gives her the nickname “Hester the Molester.” She contrasts Owen in that unlike his unrelenting child-like appearance, she appears to be an overly mature girl even as a child. Both Johnny and Owen find her very attractive and both lust for her. Because she is so aware of the affect she has on men, she is able to manipulate others in a way that is reminiscent of Tabitha’s subtle manipulation. The two women continue to draw out the sexual desires in Owen throughout his life.

Another similarity between Hester and Tabitha is that they are both involved in a scandal. Johnny’s mother is often criticized for having a child before she is married. The fact that the father turns out to be Reverend Merrill represents an even bigger scandal in that it is as if Tabitha had seduced one of God’s workers. This can be seen again in the way Owen, who thinks of himself as an instrument of God, seemed to lust for her as well. His acknowledgement of her attractiveness is seen when he says, “Your mother is so sexy, I keep forgetting she’s anyone’s mother” (38). In one incident, Owen goes into Tabitha’s room and falls asleep in her bed, an action that represents his lust for her as well as her willingness to allow it. Although she remains a conservative and modest character throughout the novel, her scandalous past continues to come back up. Yet despite Tabitha’s illegitimate pregnancy, the most scandalous character of the novel is Hester. Even at a young age, she is suspected of having sexual encounters with many men, which can be seen when it is said, “Hester was in much need of rescuing from the wildness within her” (265). Later on when she and Owen are suspected of seeing each other, Johnny continues to wonder whether or not they ever sleep together.

The mystery and scandal that surround each woman represent the temptation that Owen continues to struggle with throughout his life. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Owen’s struggle to remain sinless is often tempted by his lust for the characters of Tabitha and Hester. They help Irving to cast Owen’s battle with temptation in a particularly stark light, and to alert the reader to one of the most important complexities of the apparently principled Owen’s narrative.

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John Irvng’s Description of the Personality of Grandmother Wheelwright as Illustrated in His Book, A Prayer for Owen Meany

February 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, Harriet Wheelwright doesn’t act like a stereotypical grandmother. Not only does she continuously voice her opinions, but she’s also quick to judge anyone and everyone. Although not conventional, Johnny’s grandmother cares for him and Owen in her own special way through an interesting relationship even though it may seem condescending towards others.

Grandmother Wheelwright has a personality all her own. Just as older generations tend to do, she complains about the new technological developments and how life was much better in the olden days while still enjoying them “My grandmother observed that television was draining what scant life remained…‘clean out of them’; yet she instantly craved a TV of her own” (Irving 257). Irving uses the hypocritical divide within the gap between the older and younger generations to employ and draw attention to the irony. As a direct descendant of the Gravesend’s founders, she expects herself to maintain a certain level of status through her elegant clothing and demonstration of wealth- in this case being through the purchase of a television.

Harriet criticizes the up-and-coming television for its lifesucking qualities but all the while falls victim to the race of keeping up with the societal norms for her sky-high reputation.

Through the use of irony Irving extends the explanation of Harriet’s elevated status with the accompanying snobby attitude, and attributes of the older generations. Exemplified through her sharp, condescending tone and high-class way of life it is surprising that Harriet would succumb to such a petty fancy as a television. She epitomizes the idea of the elderly getting stuck in their ways. However, even for someone of her socioeconomic status, a new technological development proves difficult to resist. Life arrives at a point where people have to start changing with the times, and Harriet unintentionally finds herself in this stage. Also, the addition of the television set levels her with the general population of Gravesend, including Owen Meany. Not even the outlandish Harriet Wheelwright, with her lavish clothing and overzealous sentiments could overcome these cravings for a television. This shows that deep down, although not with prevalence, she shares qualities with the majority of Gravesend’s residents which enables her to truly connect with and relate to the economically disadvantaged Owen. This example of irony helps the reader to better understand the psyche of Harriet Wheelwright; suddenly, she doesn’t seem so cold and unfeeling anymore.

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The Cowardice of Popularity: Johnny’s Character

May 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, protagonist Johnny experiences outward conformity while inwardly questioning throughout the duration of his entire life. An exemplar of cowardice, Johnny uses passive aggression and the voices of others to disguise his inability to take a stand. The tendency of Johnny to silently question while taking no action creates the trait of cowardice that dominates his character throughout the entirety of the novel.

It is said that “actions, not words, create change”. Johnny, although inwardly critical of the Vietnam War, not only took no actions to create a change, but was not even vocal or expressive about his feelings. In a time dominated by protests, rallies, and demonstrations, Johnny could not even bring himself to voice his distain for the war, expressing that “even when the Anglicans asked me what I thought of Prime Minister Pearson’s “old point of view”…. I actually said I agreed! Eve though- as I’ve admitted- I’d never met a harsh deserter, not one” (463). The generation of the Vietnam soldiers, upon return to America, worked to create an America that supported and listened to those who had, previously, not been listened to. Arizona Senator John McCain is just one example. McCain, unsatisfied with the war and the treatment of those who served, ran for office to combat these issues with more productive policy. Johnny never shared his opinion, let alone took action to combat the problems in society that he saw. Because Johnny was inwardly critical of the Vietnam War, but did not take any actions to create change, he was a coward.

Prior to the Vietnam War, Johnny conformed to agree with his classmates within the Academy, leaving the questioning to Owen and The Voice. “I did, or tried to do, everything Owen did” (287), said Johnny, dependent on Owen to be outspoken due to his inability to use language and speak well. As Johnny struggled throughout his educational career to succeed in English, reading, and writing, he was willing to give Owen the power to speak on his behalf. “The Voice was our voice; he championed our causes; he made us proud of ourselves in an atmosphere that belittled and intimidated us” (295). Johnny was dependent on Owen to vocally question events and standards, even though Johnny shared the same criticisms and questions Owen did about society. Johnny was too much of a coward and simply lacked the confidence and ability to say so. He settled for conformity, never voicing his true feelings. Thus, the inward criticism and outward conformity spurred from his dependence on Owen and struggle in English and made Johnny a coward.

Johnny is also a coward because he cared more about impressing people than standing up for his own beliefs. This standard led him to a life of inward criticism, and outward conformity. “I never actually said— to any of my Canadian friends— that I suspected these deserters were no more likely to become “public charges” than I was likely to become such a charge. By then, Canon Campbell has introduced me to old Teddybear Kilgore, who had hired me to teach at Bishop Strachan. We Wheelwrights have always benefited from our connections” (463). While working in a church and dedicating his life to teaching both English and the value of Christ, Johnny preaches morality and Christian superiority. However, this message conflicts with his actions as he inwardly criticized the war that represented the opposite of morality, while outwardly conforming in his words of support. Johnny placed more value on his societal status and networking abilities, thus hindering his ability to stand up for what is right, even if it means standing alone, leading to a lifetime of conformity.

Johnny’s interpretation of history and political issues showcases his cowardice. “When some of the Grace Church on-the Hill Anglicans asked me what I thought of Prime Minister Pearson’s “old point of view”— that the deserters (as opposed to the war resisters) were in a category of U.S. citizens to be discouraged form coming to Canada- I actually said I agreed! Even though- as I’ve admitted – I’d never met a harsh deserter, not one” (463). The “Church on-the Hill Anglicans” is a reference to John Winthrop’s speech, A City on a Hill, from the founding and settlement of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop said that “America was to be a City on a Hill”, a model of superiority and moral purity. The phrase was used by both Presidents Kennedy and Reagan in major speeches. Johnny does not hide his love for Kennedy and despise for Reagan; his views strongly reflect the environments in which he was in- the popular opinion of the Academy strongly favored Kennedy, while the views of Canada in his time there did not support Reagan because of America’s involvement in Vietnam. The fact that both men had the same outlook on America shows Johnny’s cowardice as he is unable to go against what is popular and accepted in his environment. Johnny is a product of his environment as he cherry picks who he will criticize and who he will admire, thrusting him into a cycle of outward conformity.

Over the course of his life, Johnny conformed to be like those surrounding him, while questioning society inwardly. A lifetime of silent protest and dependence on those around him to voice their opinions and teach him what to think caused him to be a coward and unable to form and voice his own opinions.

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Owen’s Struggle with Temptation

May 17, 2019 by Essay Writer

Owen Meany is a character who commands attention, not only because of his small stature and high-pitched voice, but also because of his blind and undying faith in God. Yet, even with his God-like qualities, Owen’s attraction to John’s mother, Tabitha, and cousin, Hester, continue to make Owen human, despite his belief that he is an instrument of God. In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, the similarities between Tabitha and Hester represent Owen’s lifelong battle with temptation.

One major similarity between Tabitha and Hester is the fact that they are both important parts of John’s life. In some ways, they represent the underlying jealousy that Owen has for Johnny. Owen, although he has two parents, is not nearly as loved as Johnny is by his mother. Because of this, Owen is constantly craving the attention of Tabitha who mothers him the way he never is by his own parents. Owen’s selfishness when it comes to Tabitha is seen later on when he refuses to part with the dummy that had belonged to her before she died. Similarly, Owen also experiences jealousy towards Johnny’s relationship with his cousins, who he frequently visits at Sawyer Depot. This can be see in the lines, “Owen was extremely irritable regarding the time I spent with my cousins…I thought he was jealous” (60). Owen and Hester’s relationship later on continues to leave Johnny isolated, as Owen often spends the night at her apartment rather than with him. Owen’s selfishness when it comes to Tabitha and Hester represent a human side to him unlike his usual purity and almost god-like manor.

Aside from being major parts of Johnny’s life, the two women are also similar in that they are both very attractive. Tabitha is often described as beautiful which can be seen in the lines, “Tabby Wheelwright looked like a starlet—lush, whimsical, easy to talk into anything” (38). Owen himself admits to finding Johnny’s mother attractive on several occasions. Often compared to a feline, Tabitha is not only beautiful, but manipulative as well. While she never purposely manipulates other people, they seem to be almost mesmerized by her charm. Her subtle ability to control people can be seen in the lines, “She had such a sweet-tempered disposition, it was impossible to stay angry with her. She never appeared to be as assertive as she was” (15). In a way, Owen accidently killing her represented his attempt to escape from his temptation. However, this is never truly achieved because of his lust for Hester later on. Like Tabitha, Hester is also very attractive. Even at a young age, Hester seems to radiate a sense of sexuality that gives her the nickname “Hester the Molester.” She contrasts Owen in that unlike his unrelenting child-like appearance, she appears to be an overly mature girl even as a child. Both Johnny and Owen find her very attractive and both lust for her. Because she is so aware of the affect she has on men, she is able to manipulate others in a way that is reminiscent of Tabitha’s subtle manipulation. The two women continue to draw out the sexual desires in Owen throughout his life.

Another similarity between Hester and Tabitha is that they are both involved in a scandal. Johnny’s mother is often criticized for having a child before she is married. The fact that the father turns out to be Reverend Merrill represents an even bigger scandal in that it is as if Tabitha had seduced one of God’s workers. This can be seen again in the way Owen, who thinks of himself as an instrument of God, seemed to lust for her as well. His acknowledgement of her attractiveness is seen when he says, “Your mother is so sexy, I keep forgetting she’s anyone’s mother” (38). In one incident, Owen goes into Tabitha’s room and falls asleep in her bed, an action that represents his lust for her as well as her willingness to allow it. Although she remains a conservative and modest character throughout the novel, her scandalous past continues to come back up. Yet despite Tabitha’s illegitimate pregnancy, the most scandalous character of the novel is Hester. Even at a young age, she is suspected of having sexual encounters with many men, which can be seen when it is said, “Hester was in much need of rescuing from the wildness within her” (265). Later on when she and Owen are suspected of seeing each other, Johnny continues to wonder whether or not they ever sleep together.

The mystery and scandal that surround each woman represent the temptation that Owen continues to struggle with throughout his life. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Owen’s struggle to remain sinless is often tempted by his lust for the characters of Tabitha and Hester. They help Irving to cast Owen’s battle with temptation in a particularly stark light, and to alert the reader to one of the most important complexities of the apparently principled Owen’s narrative.

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A Lack of Confrontation: Repression and Evasion in the Work of John Irving

April 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

In The Cider House Rules, Homer, the protagonist, after stifling all of the uncomfortable situations in his life would “lay awake [at night] because the phantoms of those days were not gone” (312). While Homer liked to think that he was in control of his life, especially his emotions, the quote exemplifies a theme common for characters in John Irving novels: evasion and repression of feelings. In several of his novels, characters face disordering circumstances that cause discomfort. Rather than confronting these problems, the characters tend to evade the situations. Homer, despite his beliefs, is haunted at night because he cannot come to terms with his emotions during the day. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Johnny, unable to face life at home after his best friend’s death, runs away to Canada; similarly, in The Cider House Rules, Homer moves due to unresolved and conflicting feelings towards his orphanage. The Water-Method Man and The World According to Garp involve characters that, fearful of their relationships, ruin ties with others. These situations are contrasted with organic imagery through symbolism, perceived by the characters, and the nature and actions of characters and their environment. The negative consequences that accompany the characters as they avoid the uncomfortable, described with organic imagery, reveal how evasion of confrontation is inherently unnatural. Thus, Irving suggests that repression is a temporary fix; evasion is unnatural and sequentially detrimental to one’s well being.

Irving presents the reader with deeply unsettled characters, who tend to focus on their relation to the world around them. For these characters, primarily the protagonists of each novel, the circumstances in their life dictate their behavior and reactions. These characters strain their relationships—those with people, their internal struggles and their environment, all developed through organic imagery and symbolism—as they attempt to distance themselves emotionally, to evade uncomfortable feelings and situations.

The animalistic imagery, symbolizing character’s romantic partners, reveals the character’s innermost, repressed feelings about their partners to themselves. In The Water-Method Man, Trumper’s fascination with his pet blowfish symbolizes the relationship with his ex-wife, Biggie. The blowfish “irked him […] whose gross practice was to smear its translucent lips against the aquarium wall […] The other fish were terrified of it. Trumper wanted to prick it with a pin at the pinnacle of its swollen state.” (172). Trumper’s bitterness towards the blowfish mirrors the bitterness he possesses towards Biggie. The use of negative words, like “gross” and “irked”, conveys the rudimentary aspects of Trumper’s unfavorable attitude towards Biggie—he views her as an irritant. However, Trump’s perception of the blowfish delves further than just a negative image of Biggie; it reveals how the relationship affects Trumper. Biggie “terrifie[s]” Trumper, as the blowfish does to its peers, and it causes him the desire to incite violence and “prick” the blowfish. By repressing how he truly feels about Biggie, Trumper is harming is own well-being and happiness. Irving exemplifies Trumper’s negative attitude towards Biggie when he sees Biggie as a beast, whom with “her strength […] had overcome [him] and left [him] gaping at her as if she were some animal, ugly and scary and able to eat [him] whole” (52). The simile comparing Biggie to an animal not only dehumanizes her, but the animalistic imagery used to describe her suggests that not only is she an animal, but a monster. Monsters by nature are scary, unnatural and undesired; by comparing Biggie to such, Bogus reveals his formerly repressed feelings towards her. At one point Bogus admired Biggie’s strength, but as the relationship is withering away so is his optimal perception of her. Irving compares Trumper’s attitude towards Biggie to his attitude towards Tulpen, while Trumper observes his other pets. He “did worry about the turtles and fish. Not in the same way that [he] once worried about the mouse, though. That mouse lived in constant peril; it was [his] responsibility to keep him out of Biggie’s trap” (38). The way Trumper feels about the fish and mouse reflects his feelings towards Tulpen and Biggie respectively. While it is for different reasons, in both situations Trumper is inclined to keep the animals alive. He attempts to save the mouse, not in compliance with Biggie, but in spite of her. Alternatively, Trumper tries to protect the mouse, Tulpen, as an effort to save their doomed relationship. At one point, he did care for Biggie, but he understands that relationship is unviable; alternatively, despite the “peril”, Trumper has the opportunity to save his relationship with Tulpen. Trumper’s attempt to reconcile and save his relationship with Tulpen displays his progression in confronting uncomfortable situations; instead of denying the poor relationship with his girlfriend and sequentially hating her, he wants to repair the damage in the relationship, leaving positive outcomes in the future for them both.

The familial relationships in Irving’s novels, contrast artificiality with internal struggles to establish characters’ perceptions of themselves, suggesting their inability to connect and succeed in life. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Johnny’s stump (received after the amputation of his finger to evade the draft) upset him. In a distressed tone, he contemplated why he felt incomplete; the amputation “was the cleanest cut imaginable. There’s nothing grotesque, or mangles–or even raw-looking–about the stump. The only thing wrong with [him] is what’s missing. Owen Meany is missing” (540). The imagery describing the artificiality of Johnny’s wound suggests that his sacrifice was unnatural. He sacrificed the appendage to evade a war, a physical reminder of the damage evasion can cause but more so, the story behind the stump haunts him. Johnny’s late best friend and brother figure Owen amputated Johnny’s finger. Unable to cope with the loss of his friend, Johnny abandons his life at home. He holds on to certain aspects of Owen, while repressing the rest; meanwhile the stump constantly reminds Johnny of whom he is missing. The lack of acceptance of Owen’s death causes Johnny to feel disconnected from the world around him—thus, incomplete. Denny J. Weaver states that, “Johnny’s belief in God stems from his belief that Owen was called by God–but there is no other continuing impact of Owen beyond his death that saved the Vietnamese orphans” (620). However, Owen’s resurrection, a moment when Johnny believed Owen saved him from falling down the steps, actually had a profound impact on his belief of Owen as a god figure. Johnny’s inability to relinquish the memory of Owen, and his refusal to move back to the United States from Canada where he is evading Owen’s death, displays how their relationship controls his identity. Likewise, Philip Page references this when he claims “the account [of Owen’s death] reflects John’s overblown sentimentality for Owen and his clearly biased claims of Owen’s divinity and foreknowledge of events” (144). Johnny’s perception of Owen as godly figure, as he represses the other memories of Owen, perpetuates how Johnny sees Owen in a larger light. In A Water-Method Man, Trumper, aspiring to connect with his son “would have chosen just that to make the bay roll and swell, inspire a cacophony of ulls to circle overhead, raise the Great White Whale from the depths and make him leap like a giant trout […] then watch the whole turn and steam out to sea, leaving them with the memory” (246). The ocean imagery, the exaggerated motions, the bay swellings and whale leaping, accentuate the mythical aspect of Trumper’s fantasy—not of Moby Dick, the “Great White Whale”, but his desire to maintain a relationship with his son, Colm. The intensity of Trumper’s fantasy, the way he wishes to “inspire” the ulls, and “raise the Great White Whale”, conveys his passion to connect with his son. However, Moby Dick is just an unreal fantasy, which suggests that Bogus’s attempt to stay close to Colm, after deserting him for so long, is also that, a fantasy. In The Cider House Rules, Homer perceives himself as a lynx sliding down a side of a hill who “traveled closer to the orphanage than it would ever have chosen to come, its ferocious death smell clashing with the freezing cold. […] It spit its rage at Homer Wells, as if Homer had caused its unwilling decent” (401). The sensory imagery, describing the orphanage as a place smelling of death, amplifies Homer’s dissatisfaction with his living arrangement. The personification of the lynx, spitting “rage” at Homer as if he caused the lynx’s struggle, mirrors how Homer feels towards Larch. Homer rarely expresses his feelings to Larch; he conceals them, and it strains his emotional health as now he sees this unhealthy relationship everywhere, even in a lynx. Debra Shostak notes, “That is, [the characters] never lives in a normalized, acknowledged paternal relation to [their sons]. Irving suggests one of two things: either the impossibility of fathers living in just relation to sons, or the impossibility of himself imagining such fathers” (134). Homer’s relationship with Dr. Larch never takes the true form of father-son; rather he repeals those feelings from the relationship in order to prevent becoming too detached. Similarly, this carries into Homer’s adult life; only when Homer leaves the orphanage does Larch begins to show fatherly affection. This repressive attitude carries over to Homer’s own relationship with his son. The pattern of repressing feelings and only carrying out father-son relationships from a distance does suggest that in the novel fathers and sons cannot coexist, or at least, carry out normal relationships, harming each character’s mental state. Lastly, Todd Davis Kenneth Womack note, “Homer cannot bring himself to believe what Latch preaches about abortion. At the same time, because of his relationship with Larch he cannot condemn his “father’s” actions either” (395). While Homer does repress his negative feelings towards Larch, causing him to abandon his home, once Homer confronts his relationship with Larch from a distance, he begins to relate to Larch. The beginning stages of this resolution display the mending of a relationship once harmed by concealed feelings and animosity.

The contrasting inorganic and organic imagery of fear of death and acceptance of it reveal how accepting life’s natural cycle is emotionally beneficial to the individual, rather than evading the reality of death. In The World According to Garp, prior to his son’s death

“Garp relished having such close scrutiny of the child; he lay beside Walt and smelled the boy’s fresh breath, remembering when Duncan’s breath had turned sour in his sleep in that grown up way. It had been an unpleasant sensation for Garp, shortly after Duncan turned six, to smell that Duncan’s breath was stale and faintly foul in his sleep. It was as if the process of decay, of slowly dying, was already begun in him” (310).

The paradox in the passage, between Duncan’s youth and dying breath, suggests Garp’s inherent frightful nature and fear of death. Garp is hyper aware of Duncan’s youth, evidently distant by the possibility of dying, however his pessimism causes him to only see the future death of Walt. “Decay” and turning “sour” imply that the process of death is natural; fruit and organic substances decay and die. Garp’s fear of death later is a large factor in his repression of feelings, especially after Walt’s death when, “Between Helen and Garp, the Under Toad became [a] code phrase for anxiety. […] Garp and Helen evoked the beast as a way of referring to their own sense of danger,” he recalls when “Duncan asked on the plane, ‘how Walt asked if [the Under Toad] was green or brown?’ Both Garp and Duncan laughed, But it was neither green nor brown […] It was [himself]. It was Helen. It was the color of bad weather, It was the size of an automobile” (Garp 473). Garp’s fear of death takes form as the Under Toad, representing Garp’s passed son Walt and suggesting the weight death can carry for extended periods. Due to his passing Garp is always going to haunted by death, as per suggested by the anaphora of “when the”. Similarly, by the anaphora of “it was”, death haunts Garp because he feels guilty for it. In this case, he feels death was not natural or just, he caused it. Because of these feelings he strains his relationships with his family by evading situations he deems deadly, while simultaneously trying to repress his feelings about Walt. Garp observed death and believed it “‘does not have to wait until we are prepared for it. Death is indulgent and enjoys, when it can, a flair for the dramatic’” (509). The personification of death is unnatural, because death simply is not a person and cannot feel the way Garp suggests it can. The fear of death and association with it as an unnatural event suggests, by the unfortunate circumstances surrounding death and Garp, that it’s better to accept death as a part of life’s cycle, rather than actively avoiding it. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, after Johnny’s mother Tabitha died, they planned a funeral and

“All those same crones of [Johnny’s] grandmother were there. [He] know what they came to see. How does royalty react to this? How will Harriet Wheelwright respond to Fate with a capital F—to a Freak Accident (with a capital F, too), or to an Act of God (if that’s what you believe it was)? All those same crones, as black and hunchbacked as crows gathered around some road kill—they came to the service as if to say: We acknowledge, O God, that Tabby Wheelwright was not allowed to get off scot-free” (214).

The crones are symbolic of the Johnny’s society. Stratification and strict social norms riddle Gravesend, which Tabby had defied by having Johnny out of wedlock. The simile of the crones is censorious, suggesting that society is picking away at the remains of “road kill”, an innocent person. The arrival of the “crones” after her death reveals how even though they evaded confronting Tabby about her situation while she was alive, life has a natural cycle, and the crones coming to pick at road kill now that she is dead is expected. At the end of the novel, when Owen died, “The tissue that hung from the stumps of [his] arms was as filmy and delicate as gossamer–as fine and intricate as old lace” (Prayer 625). The simile associating Owen’s life threatening war injuries to delicate lace evokes a sentiment of peace. In Owen’s last moments, Irving romanticizes his bloody, violent amputation. The imagery associated with the gossamer and lace implies fragility, meaning Owen would need to be cared for. Death here is as beautiful due to the imagery, contrasting the fearful associations of death in Irving’s other work. The acceptance of death, Irving may suggest, is natural and likely will lead to more resolution than fearing it.

The vulgar and animalistic imagery used by John Irving concerning sex and its consequences suggests that repressing sexuality and demonizing natural parts of life, ultimately regresses societal and individual progress. In The World According to Garp, Jenny, a self proclaimed feminist, went to college where “the recommendation of Wellesley had come from her older brothers, who had assured her parents that Wellesley women were not thought of loosely and were considered high in marriage potential. Jenny felt […] as if she were really a cow, being prepared only for the insertion of the device for artificial insemination” (2). The simile comparing Jenny to a cow is reflective of how society dehumanizes Jenny and other women, caroling them into the wishes of men and authoritative figures. The condemnation of sex, calling woman who have it loose, creates an unbalanced power dynamic where women are treated like second hand citizens, lacking the agency to make comprehensive decisions. Irving compares the repression of her desires “artificial insemination”, literally unnatural, perhaps suggesting that treating women as less than men is also unnatural. In The Cider House Rules, Dr. Larch, an abortion doctor condemning pro-life society, notes, “Is it a democratic society that condemns people to the accident of conception? What are we-monkeys? […] What are you people thinking of? You’re not only crazy! You’re ogres!” (376). The animalistic imagery comparing society to “monkeys” and “ogres” reveals Irving’s accusatory tone towards the way society regards abortion. By alluding to society as monkeys and ogres, creatures that carry negative connotations, Irving condemns the mainstream pro-life, chaste society, switching the power dynamic vilifying society rather than women. In The World According to Garp, Garp makes a cruel joke about Ellen Jamesians, women who cut off their tongues in solidarity with a young rape victim. The joke goes as followed “Was that he conceived of his narrator-heroine as a lesbian who doesn’t realize that until after she cut off her tongue that she has made herself undesirable as a lover, too. […] There were, actually suicides. “There are always suicides,” Garp wrote, ‘among people who are unable to say what they mean’” (661). The amputation of the tongue, a motif appearing in several others of Irving’s novels, suggests a lack of autonomy within life. The direct link between sex and lack of control harms the individuals as their desires are minimized for mainstream society. In The Cider House Rules, Larch believes

“These same people who tell us we must defend the lives of the unborn—they are the same people who seem not so interested in defending anyone but themselves after the accident of birth is complete! These same people who profess their love of the unborn’s soul—they don’t care to make much of a contribution to the poor, they don’t care to offer much assistance to the unwanted or the oppressed! How do they justify such a concern for the fetus and such a lack of concern for unwanted and abused children? They condemn others for the accident of conception” (Cider 377).

The anaphora in the passage emphasizes Irving’s critical tone of people who condemn abortion. The passage contains views of people who condemn abortion juxtaposed with critical opposition. Irving ironically suggests through the juxtaposition, and accusatory repetition that people who demonize abortion, blaming it on a lack of responsibility, take no responsibility themselves. While they can be quick to judge those who left without a choice, they deliberately make the choice to take the freedom of choice away. Helena Wahlstrom a critic of Irving says, “the novel […] makes abortion almost universal, a part of normative reproduction practices. This representation is true to the reality of abortion in the US — where studies show that all kinds of women have abortions” (258). The book starts with back alley abortions and includes older women, young teens, and both wealthy and poor women seeking abortions, representative of the reality in America. While abortion can be viewed as the most evasive situation, (as women are supposedly giving up their children, thus running away from their problems) it is actually the truest forms of confrontation in the novel. Rather than running from their problems, by reclaiming control over their sexuality, no longer repressing it, the women take responsibility and make decisive choices that will lead to a resolution.

The characters in John Irving’s novels tend to physically distance themselves from their problems in order to gain short-term satisfaction, without considering the long-term effects. By abandoning their problems, they create poor situations for themselves, which Irving suggests is unnatural. Irving uses animal symbolism to establish how characters perceive themselves, in terms of identification and societies, revealing how self-perception affects the way characters view the world. In The Cider House Rules, a confused Homer witnesses a lynx, “panicked”, trying to run up a hill; “it was less than halfway up when it began to slide down again, […] the lynx was panting; it ran diagonally uphill, slipping but catching itself, and slipping again, finally escaping into the softer snow in the woods […] the lynx would accept any route of escape from the dark hospital.” (401). The lynx is symbolic of Homer and the struggle he faces growing up in a hostile environment. The repetition of the word “slipping” emphasizes Homer’s repressed feelings towards the hospital. Despite it being his home it is no longer is it the safe haven he would try to return to, inhospitable to the person he has become. While in The Cider House Rules, Homer perceived himself similarly to a lynx, in The Water Method Man, Trumper identifies with a eel: “He saw a tiny, translucent, turquoise eel, its inner organs visible and somehow functioning. […] As the bubble rose to the surface, other fish investigated it, nudged it, sometimes broke it. […] Was a bubble a word or a whole sentence? Perhaps a paragraph! A tiny, translucent, turquoise poet reading beautifully to his world!” (58). The aquatic imagery and personification describing the eel represents Trumper’s feelings towards himself. The imagery, describing the eels as “tiny, translucent”, with organs visible and simultaneously functioning, being probed by its peers, suggests a fragility about Trumper and a delicacy about his emotional state. Although Trumper is not formally an artist, the inquisition towards what the bubble, his words, reveals his belief that both he and his art are misunderstood. Later Trumper “stabbed and he stabbed, trying to lance one of [the fish] against the glass. They had killed the poet! The eel had been pleading with them–bubbles for mercy! And they had eaten him, the fuckers” (Water 61). While the previous comparison to the eel described Trumper’s feelings towards himself, this reveals how he perceives himself amongst his peers in society. Trumper believes he is a victim of his peers. The violent language, “killed” and “eaten”, suggests that his peers are consuming his worth. Furthermore, the quote reveals Trumper’s own violent tendencies and inclination towards revenge. He violently “stabbed and he stabbed” the tank trying to take out one of the fish, a behavior that may result from having bottled up his feelings about others. His justification is short, “they had killed the poet”. He victimizes the poet and demonizes the eel’s peers, displaying how Trumper feels that within his own society he is the subject of abuse.

Irving personifies the denial of reality to emphasize that repressing your problems is detrimental to oneself, because it haunts the individual, hindering them from growing. In The Cider House Rules, Senior Worthington believed his “brain [was] sending poison to [his] heart’” (232). The personification of the brain and heart as two separate entities with different emotional and logical purposes emphasizes the distinction between choice and having something forced upon one. The word choice of “poison” suggests that the weight of drinking for so many years has taken a toll on Senior Worthington, and that his repression and evasion of situations, masked by a drunken state, has led to his dismal demise. The distinction and personification between the brain and heart suggests that the brain is responsible for logical thought whereas Worthington’s true feelings come from his heart; by separating the brain from the heart; Irving thus separates feelings from rational, making it easier for people to repress how they feel. Repression thus leads to haunting, as Garp would “lay awake [at night] because the phantoms of those days were not gone” (Garp 312). Condoms by nature are supposed to protect and act as a shield towards STDs and pregnancy. Here the condom symbolize the shield Homer has put up against his past, however as the situation shows, condoms can break, thus Homer’s shield is penetrable. Repressing and evading the past can only work for so long; the situation is always going to have the capability of haunting one. Irving also uses evasion in his writing to add ‘to the suspense he establishes when he refuses to chronicle the accident immediately.’ While we learn of the injuries to Garp, Helen and Duncan right after the car crash, we don’t learn Walt has died until the end of the chapter (McKay par. 7). The ambiguity after Walt’s death is prevalent. The structure of the narrative and the language of it appropriate Garp’s personal voice translating the information regarding the accident in a poetic manner. The abstract ambience surrounding the situation adds suspense, causing Garp to seem regretful. Regret takes tolls on many of Irving’s characters, looming over them and influencing their perception of everyday life. In The Cider House Rules, Angel sat on the roof with Rose and “told her all about the ocean: the strange tiredness one feels at the edge of the sea, the weight in the air, the haze in the middle of a summer day, the way the surf softens sharp things” (511). The ocean imagery, symbolizes the repressed situations Rose and Angel are dealing with. With words like “weight” and “haze” in combination with words such as “summer day” and “soften[ing] sharp things” Irving suggests that the despite the beauty associated with the ocean, a toll has been taken on it. The overcast imagery reveals how despite something may appear perfect, flaws will arise and they cannot hide. Ironic because the characters try hard to repress and hide unwanted situations, the overcasting, evaded problems for the characters seen regardless. The idea that problems do not disappear is apparent in A Prayer for Owen Meany, when Irving personifies memory claiming, “Your memory is a monster; you forget–it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you–and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!” (36). The personification of memory suggests that memories themselves live separately from the people they belong to and the metaphor comparing memory to a monster implies that they are to be feared. Johnny is bound to his memories and has no free will, as depicted by the possessive verb in the last sentence. The association of fear with memories, especially memories that seemingly wish to be forgotten, indicates that perhaps instead of running from memories and the past, it would be better to just confront them. Memory is thus associated with time, and as McKay notes “the number of pages given to the brief episode of his mother’s death is inordinate to actual time, but memory works by selectively expanding and contracting time” (McKay). Memory and time are different because time is a set measurement; memory is completely dependent on the subject and how one remembers it. Therefore it makes sense that Johnny spends so much time remembering his mother’s death even though it only took a short amount of time; it’s relevance is much more prominent than any other event, regardless of its timeframe.

The organic imagery throughout the novel, juxtaposed to characters and the situations they find themselves in unwillingly, creates a reoccurring theme that the characters resort to: repression and evasion. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Johnny runs away to Canada after his best friend’s death; similarly, in The Cider House Rules, Homer moves due to unresolved and conflicting feelings towards his orphanage. In The Water-Method Man and The World According to Garp characters, fearful of their relationships, ruin ties with others. The negative consequences that accompany the characters as they avoid the uncomfortable, described with organic imagery, reveals how evasion of confrontation is inherently unnatural. Thus, Irving suggests that in order to maintain a happy and fulfilled life, characters should confront reality, improving their relationships with others, satisfying their desire for emotional connections.

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