A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving through a Jungian Archetypal Lens
Carl Jung was a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who developed many theories concerning the unconscious mind. Jung’s theories state that the unconscious part of a human’s psyche has two different layers, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious is unique to every individual; however, the collective unconscious “is inborn.” (Carl Jung, Four Archetypes, 3) The collective unconscious is present in everyone’s psyche, and it contains archetypes which are “those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted to conscious elaboration” (Jung, Archetypes, 5); they are templates of thought that have been inherited through the collective unconscious. Jung has defined many different archetypes such as the archetype of the mother, the archetype of the hero, the archetype of the shadow, etc. These Jungian archetypes are often projected by the collective unconscious onto others. If the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is examined through a Jungian archetypal lens it is possible to discern different archetypes projected by the protagonist’s unconscious self to illustrate the effects of the collective unconscious on character and plot analysis.
Tabitha Wheelwright embodies the archetype of the mother. Which shows us how with reflection, John sees her with a divine quality; he mythologizes her. Jung’s theory states that:
“Parents are early major carriers of projection, and children unconsciously project omnipotence and omniscience onto them. These are what Jung called archetypal projections. The parents become gods, invested with powers that people have attributed to the divine. ‘Daddy can do anything! He’s the strongest guy in the whole world!’ ‘Mother knows everything and can perform miracles. She also loves me unconditionally!’”(Stein, M.)
When we remember our deceased parents, we tend to remember them as perfect even though that is impossible. In the process of reimagining them to have no faults, we tend to mythologize them to fit the role we have in our head of the divine parents. John’s unconscious self has projected the positive archetype of the mother onto his own mother, therefore he sees her only as the perfect mother, and remembers nothing else. Time is key to this equation because if a parent dies when you are young there is a higher chance that you will mythologize them because when you are innocent and dependant on your parents they have a higher status in your life. If your parents pass away when you are a teenager, there is less of a chance that you will mythologize your parents, since this is the time of your life where you tend to perceive your parents as knowing nothing; you are more independent as a teenager. John is equating her to the Virgin Mary, who is a virgin, the Christian idea of purity, and a mother. She is someone who is blessed with a beautiful body and who had a son before she was betrothed, and...