The Character And Psyche Of Owen Meany

1522 words - 6 pages

John Irving begins his novel with one of the most iconic introductory lines in modern literature; introducing a character who is a great source of pain and anguish, yet the ultimate source behind the narrator’s belief in God (Irving 3). In this paradoxical sentiment the theme of the book born, what follows it is a journey that is different from any other. John Wheelwright, the narrator, tells a story of his best friend Owen Meany and what effect he has had on John’s own life, while concurrently interjecting the plot with information about the occurrence in the world around him and how it relates back to Owen. Through the uses of sporadic but continuous plot development John Irving develops a self acclaimed Christ-like character whose life, actions, and being directly influence the development of those around him; ultimately conveying an utter sense of belief in disbelief.
Irving uses a non-linear plot style to tell the story of Owen’s life, accomplishing two things: he gives a reader insight into the mental state of John Wheelwright and its slow digression, and makes a reader experience events not in the order that they occurred but rather in the order of recollection. By accomplishing these two things, Irving develops a biographical and believable plot that has unbelievable suspense; as a reader does not get key details of setting and plot until later in the book.
Owen Meany is setup as a Christ analogue in the text (Peterson). Irving makes this obvious by offsetting Owen’s speech in all caps, similar to how most translations of the Bible offset Jesus’ speech in red. He is an unlikely hero in the lives of those around him, both directly and indirectly. Even not considering the penultimate scene of Owen’s sacrifice, he is clearly still a hero. Owen performs impossible tasks, from slam-dunking a basketball with a height of about four [4] feet tall (Irving 331) to moving a solid marble bust by himself (396), he also surmounts many obstacles such as defeating Head Master Randy White. This qualifies him then to fall under the hero archetype (Guerin), of course, he is an atypical hero, with one of his most heroic actions being that of severing his best friend’s finger off with a diamond edged granite saw (Background). His growth into the position of hero is an integral part of the plot and the ultimate catalyst for his undertaking of his quest.
Owen did not start out as the perfect hero; in fact, Irving takes a very typical road and develops Owen’s character through series of events that lead up to his taking of his place as the Christ-figure hero (Guerin). Owen starts out as a coward – albeit a coward who refuses to act like one. For instance, he pees his pants when his female cousin is in the same closet as him (Peterson). He is also the source of both the main sorrows of the novel, his own death, and the death of Tabitha Wheelwright, acting as the exact opposite of a hero. He undergoes a metaphorical rebirth to mature into the Christ Hero;...

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