In A Prayer for Owen Meany, how does Hester contribute to the thematic development?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which Hester contributes to the thematic development of Irving's work is in her display of faith.  Hester is convinced that Vietnam was something wrong, and something immoral.  Even when Owen pledges his desire to fulfill his duty, itself an act of faith, as serving in Vietnam, Hester shows faith towards her own belief system.  Her love for Owen is taken on faith, reflective in how she vows to carry his children if he does not go and display undying love for him.  He opposition to the war is a matching element of faith to his commitment to it.  When Owen dies, she carries the love she held for Owen beyond the grave.  She shows a faith in Owen that underlines the idea of faith in the novel. Owen operates on a condition of faith in what he believes and in his purpose.  The closing lines of the novel show how faith is important to John when he speaks to God: "O God—please bring him back! I shall keep asking You."  This same faith is intrinsic to Hester's being in the world.

At the same time, Hester's emergence in the late 1980s is a result of a world where faith is lacking. The disillusionment in the Reagan Presidency, as seen in John's eyes through Iran- Contra and indulgence within the time period, are results of a lack of faith.  It is in this vacuum of faith that Hester becomes a reputed rock star.  Her ascension is a reminder that faith is most needed in the most difficult of times, a theme that is present throughout the novel.  In this way, Hester's characterization contributes to the novel's thematic development.

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