Commentary on The Prayer for Owen Meany as an Example of Religious Literature
Compromised by the lack of knowledge of his father, John Wheelwright, the questor, searches for his true identity as he travels from country to country and finds himself switching from one religion to the other. By taking on this quest to find his father, he will learn more about himself; creating a new identity. This correlates to HTRLLAP since the example from The Crying of Lot 49 illustrates the real reason for going on the quest. To find her true self which is what Wheelwright did in APFOM.
Rev. Merrill illustrates that religious doubt might be useful since doubt in their faith gets people thinking of where the belief came from. If Wheelwright is thinking about God, it might lessen the uncertainty he has. This can also be considered a mini-quest for Rev Merrill since he faces many challenges throughout the novel. He has to find out who he is before he can rely on himself and other things like religion.
Wheelwright meets Dan Needham for the very first time at dinner; this was special since Wheelwright did not have a father figure. But, after accepting Needham into the family after communion, he becomes the father figure Wheelwright did not have in his early life. Finding a father connects to the idea of bringing peace, he was able to find peace within himself after finding someone he had been searching for after a long time. Although dinner was not as pleasant as it could be since Wheelwright was still getting accustomed to the changes Lydia went through, the communion was still there. Lydia was now equal, no longer serving the wheelwright family; the maids had to help her now. Wheelwright learned to treat her equally, which connects to the blind man in Cathedral. He overcame the judgments of others, and the man who felt uncomfortable with him learned how to accept different people; after communion.
Foster explains how vampires in a novel can deny someone’s rights to live. Because of this implication, Owen Meany can be conveyed as his own vampire. He does not let the dream of seeing his name own name on the grave go. After witnessing the headstone, Owen knows he will die that day because it is what God intended. Owen believes he saw that because God wanted him to know that death was coming for him so he could be ready for anything that faces him. It was not so he can save himself from dying; instead, he needs to be brave in the face of death.
Seeing the Angel of Death at Tabitha’s death bed. The Angel of Death is portrayed in the novel, not to frighten Owen Meany but to illustrate how God is getting ahold of him on a human level. Faith is a difficult thing to have, especially at such a young age. Kids are inclined to have a creative mind and think about all the possibilities for every situation, but Meany is different. Even at a young age, he knows God wants Owen to be aware of his actions and what he plans on doing in future situations. Owen believes that every situation he was put in, was for a reason; which is why he was meant to interrupt the work of the Angel of Death.
Hester Eastman in A Prayer For Owen Meany has similar attributes as Hester Prynne from A Scarlet Letter. John’s cousin, Hester Eastman, makes readers think of Hester Prynne from A Scarlet Letter. Prynne is looked down upon by everyone in her community because of her adultery. The sexual desire Prynne had when she cheated correlates to Eastman since her aggression in the chapter is sexual. Boys from the town even tease her by calling her ‘Hester the Molester’ because of how much she goes around town fulfilling not only her sexual desires but others.
Hasan from The Kite Runner and Owen go hand-in-hand as they both face the torments of bullying. The children, including John, from Sunday school in A Prayer for Owen Meany, torment him as they pick him up and carry him above their heads. Doing this upsets Owen since he was not capable of fighting for himself and telling them to stop since he was petite and frail. Tormenting Owen connects to Hasan’s rape from The Kite Runner. Amir witnessed the rape, which made him see Hasan as less of a person. Amir would throw apples at him thus correlating to John picking up Owen and seeing him as less of a person as well.
Owen is invested in his religion and decides that if he is going to die, he might as well die for a good cause. During the play, Owen saw his name on the gravestone, not the name of the character, which surprised him since he was not expecting to see his death date. Because of his religion, seeing his name on the stone made him believe his death was near. Knowing his death date relates to Julius Caesar from Shakespeare because Caesar and Owen both die for what genuinely believe. They face death bravely and show dignity in their beliefs until the end of their lives. Dying for a cause correlates to Foster’s ideas since Shakespeare is utilized to give a deeper to such a simple part of the novel.
Owen connects to the Bible since his name Paul Owen Meany is similar to a name from the Bible, 9:15-16. His real name is Paul Owen Meany, the same first name as an Apostle from the Bible. Apostle Paul is a chosen instrument that proclaimed his name to the people of Israel and taught the gospel of Christ. He is considered one of the most influential figures in the Bible, which is why he connects to Owen Meany since Meany is regarded as an essential figure within the novel. God was the only way to get information about what was going on; without Owen, there would be no way to understand what was happening. He felt like the chosen instrument for God and put on a brave face with no doubt ever crossing his mind about his faith.
In this chapter, illustrating the Bible was not ironic; Irving portrays Jesus within the section to convey a deeper understanding of what Owen Meany is going through. Just by giving a short example of the Bible in the story illustrates the impact Jesus has on Meany. Not only does he follow his faith, but God’s words are flowing out of him without any recognition with himself that he just referenced God. All Meany wanted was for everyone to take the play seriously; instead, this part in the story becomes a biblical allusion.
Greek Mythology has the same intentions as Biblical references do; they both are utilized to create a more profound meaning within the characters or plot. The Angel of Death in this chapter can refer to Thanatos from Greek mythology; in mythology, he is considered a personification of death. Thanatos and the Angel of Death form a connection between each other since they represent the people are passing away. Although Thanatos is not a big part of mythology, he still does appear within some of the stories. He rarely appears in his human form, which is why the Angel standing over Tabitha correlates even more to him since they both are figures that people view.
The flashback of Tabitha’s wedding foreshadows how her death will occur. During her wedding, a hailstorm breaks out, and one hailstone hits Tabitha right between her eyes. This occurrence indicates where her death will come from and in a way, makes her death inevitable. At a baseball game, after the wedding, Owen hits a foul ball and smacks Tabitha right between her eyes, killing her instantly. The foul ball Owen hit portrays the hailstorm as a more profound action as it emphasized her cause of death.
The death of Tabitha gave Owen Meany’s life meaning, as he now takes action for whatever God asks of him. Death is utilized to help shape a character in a story. The way characters react and get through situations give readers a better understanding of what type of person they are going for rather than just trying to figure that out yourself. Tabitha and her death illustrate how her death will form a better relationship between Owen and Johnny. Tabitha’s death is what pushed Owen into truly believing their religion.
The armadillo serves as many symbols within the story. The animal represents Owen in different ways; like being as strong as an armadilloes shell. For being such a petite child, his outer layer is as secure as the outer shell of an armadillo. Those animals are tough to break because of their protection, which is why Owen relates to the armadillo. Even with all the tragedy -his mother passing away and Tabitha’s death- he never loses faith with God which explains how secure he is. His religion keeps him fighting for his beliefs, and without God, he may not be where he is at in his life.
The red dress Tabitha keeps in her home illustrates the difference between the suburban mother she portrays to be, and the wild woman she becomes when she is alone. At home, Tabitha does not care about what others think; she is scared of the judgment she will receive is she perceives herself as a sexy woman. But, when she goes to Boston, she takes advantage of her alone time. The red dress symbolizes the lies she tells her hometown. She changes her personality when she is alone; it is like she uses the time in Boston to steer away from the reality of her life and escape the stress. In this section, John Wheelwright is emphasizing the difference between the social status of the Wheelwright and Meany family. The Meany’s were more hard-working, which also meant they were not as wealthy as the other family. People living during this time still lived under the social rank; even modern-day society, people do that. But, people before would get praised just because of how much money or the way people are dressed. The Wheelwright family is a higher class or royalty during their time would get special treatment. The way John Wheelwright differentiates both families correlates to Foster’s ideas about how there is politics is almost everything people read.
Just because someone is from a family where high levels of education are necessary does not mean they follow the same beliefs as their family members. For instance, Dan states he is from a family that cares tremendously about where they get their education; however, he does not. So instead of following the same path as his family; he creates his oath where he will courageously follow his own interests and dreams.
A Christ Figure withing A Prayer For Owen Meany is Owen Meaning himself. He follows God and the Bible without any doubt ever crossing his mind. He believes in preaching God so much that he begins to think the church is an unnecessary form of way of having a relationship with God. People there do not know when to pray or when to listen to what the priest has to say. Christ himself would never complain about going to church which is why Owen is the Christ figure readers should be looking for. Foster states that characters who represent Christ should not mirror his exact actions. If that is the case, the authors will bring the real Christ into their novels, not figures of him. Because of that belief, Owen is the character who represents God as he has never doubted his faith yet complains about how people do not take advantage of the church.
The armadillo is illustrated many times within the novel. Not only is the armadillo symbolic, but it can represent a Christ figure. Owen meany is the main Christ figure in the story, but the armadillo is utilized to save Johnny and Owen’s friendship. In a way, the armadillo has been helping the boys get through the hardships they are facing. For instance, Tabitha’s death; the armadillo kept Johnny and Owen’s friendship going because of how much the kids relied on it. If Owen’s life was not exactly how it is within the story, everything might have shifted. Which is why the armadillo is a Christ figure; the friendship helps Owen keep his faith even after all the hardships, he can still rely on Johnny to help. If he started losing his friends, there is a possibility of losing faith too. So the armadillo was there to protect the relationships though the toughest journeys.
Hester is crazed when it comes to boys within the story. Any boy that crosses her path is either scared or wants more time with her as she fulfills their sexual desires. Hester is a sex-crazed teenager; she has sex with any boys that cross her path. But, when she meets Owen, her sexual desires become the need for compassion from another person. Staying with Owen implies she was merely looking for her soul mate. Although Owen was not looking searching for a girlfriend, it was love at first sight. Hester finding Owen infers how having sex was not for her desires; instead, it was her way of looking for the one. Although they are not the ideal couple, they are together for a long time- until Owen’s death.
The lady in red had secrets she was never able to tell John due to her unexpected death. Tabitha died so unexpectedly that she was never able to express her true self to John. Tabitha did go on dates according to John’s knowledge, yet he was never able to meet any of the men. Tabitha leaving the men in her alternate life correlates to how her sexual desire was more than that; she used them as an excuse to become to the lady in red. She was steering away from the ideology of women and was against conformity. Quote 1: ‘I wanted to cry- not because I believed a single thing about his stupid ‘vision,’ but because it was the first time he had lied to me.’ Winter is upon the characters in A Prayer for Owen Meany as they are getting ready to perform A Christmas Carol. This season correlates to how Owen does not tell John his death date and instead lies to him, which builds tension between their relationship. Winter produces an atmospheric shift in the story since John and Owen’s friendship was fine up until Wintertime.
People would expect Petite people to be unwilling to do anything for others since they are perceived as weak. Though Owen Meany’s stature may not be the most appealing to someone brave and fearless; he does demonstrate those characteristics through other actions. It is assumed someone small and frail will not be as inclined to fight for others, but Owen Meany is different. Unafraid of facing his own death, he did what he knew he had to die to save the children. Women have an ideal role they must play in this time period. The ideal role of women is ironic since Hester is put in a kitchen and cooks for the men, yet she does not do a good job. Not all women were meant to be stuck in a house, yet the critical nature against women forced them to stay put. They could not speak for what they believed in; so they decide to stick with what the men or society want them to do.
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