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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