The Relationship Between John and Owen in A Prayer for Owen Meany, a Novel by John Irving

Categories: LiteracyLiterature

In A Prayer For Owen Meany, one relationship that stands out is the one between the natural and supernatural. Besides this display, it is difficult to find another relationship that is this apparent. However, there is one other relationship which stands out and that is between John and Owen. Their relationship is far more deep and important then it is initially perceived to be. The strength of John and Owens relationship is displayed through the theory of opposites attracting as seen through their leader-follower relationship, family backgrounds, and feelings towards religion.

In A Prayer For Owen Meany, it is portrayed as John and Owen have an equal dependence on one another, however, they play different roles as Owen is the leader in the relationship while John is the follower. John is a follower because of his insecurity. John does not make many decisions on his own, unless he receives the consent of someone else or Owen Meany. Johns dependence on Owen became stronger after Owen accidentally killed Tabitha, Johns mother.

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Tabitha was the only parent John had at the time and John had difficulty coping with life after her death. Johns dependence on Owen also was strong because of Owens intelligence. John was not as smart as Owen and often needed help.

Remembering how I suffered as a student, remembering how much I needed Owen’s help. As a child, John strives to do everything that Owen does, but seems to find himself less adequate. John is a shy child who does not associate with other children very often.

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He does not seem to have any friends which meant that John grew up with little self esteem. On the other hand, Owen is very confident and opinionated despite his disabilities and is more social than John. As an adult, John is very unsure what he would like to do with his life. He could not figure out what occupation would be best for him. When he read in Owens diary that Owen thought John should go to Toronto and become a teacher, he does so completely due to the influence of Owen. When Owen dies, John is absolutely devastated and is unsure how he can continue on in life.

it took years for me to face my memory of how Owen Meany died and once I forced myself to remember the details, I could never forget how he died; I will never forget it. I am doomed to remember this. (pg. 574) John and Owen both come from different backgrounds which is a contributing factor in their attraction to one another. John comes from the well-established and wealthy Wheelright family in Gravesend, New Hampshire. Owen comes from the Meany family which is new to Gravesend. Owens father runs a granite quarry while his mother appears to be partly mentally disabled. John, although an outcast, is accepted among the towns people. However, Owen is viewed as an outcast and looked down upon and ridiculed by most people. Owens parents do not care for him. It is Tabitha Wheelright, Johns mother, who proves to be a mother-type figure towards Owen.

When touching Owen, one voided his ears. But not my mother; she even rubbed warmth into his rubbery ears. She hugged him, she kissed him, she touched noses with him. (pg. 29)

Tabitha is a strong contributing factor to the boys strong bond. Both look at her as a mother as she is the only real parental figure for the two boys. When Owen accidentally kills Tabitha, the bond between John and Owen ironically becomes stronger. John and Owen both lost someone they both loved and depended upon. Despite the many differences between them, this event caused mutual mourning by the two characters.

The opening sentence in Owen Meany shows Johns devotion towards Owen. he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany (pg. 1) Religion also plays a major part in the novel. Although John has always been a churchgoer, his true belief in God is not because of God, but, in fact, because of Owen Meany. When Owen claims he is an instrument of God and has been sent to carry out a special mission before he dies, nobody believes Owen including John. However, after Owen dies on the date that he knew he was going to die on, his presence is felt and heard by John. John realizes that Owen must have a relation to God as he predicted the date of his death. This is an important event that contributes to Johns stronger belief in God.

How could Owen Meany have known what he knew? Its no answer, of course, to believe in accidents, or in coincidences; but is God really a better answer? If God had a hand in what Owen ‘knew,’ what a horrible question that poses! For how could God have let that happen to Owen Meany! Watch out for people who call themselves religious, make sure you know what they meanmake sure they know what they mean! (pg. 571-572)

Owen believes that God makes everything happen for a reason. When Tabitha died, Johns hope of finding out who his father was did not look promising. However, Owen promised that the identity of his father would be revealed by his father himself in the future. It was Owens belief in their friendship and primarily in God that placed the search for Johns father in his hands. Although John was skeptical about finding his father, when he did, his belief in God and Owen Meany became stronger.

When John and Owen would practice the shot, Owen insists that sometime the shot he and John were practicing would be for a divine purpose. As well, John had to be there to develop the shot in under three seconds. There was mutual dependence between the two boys if they were to accomplish this goal. This combined goal to fulfill the shot proved that Owens purpose in life was to become a hero, but only with the help of John. Johns faith in God grew when Owen proved to be correct as they used to shot to save the lives of Vietnamese children when John had to lift Owen up to throw the grenade out the window of the washroom.

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The Relationship Between John and Owen in A Prayer for Owen Meany, a Novel by John Irving. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved from

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