How does John Irving contrast Owen and John in A Prayer For Owen Meany to show that religion/faith must include struggles or it isn't realistic. I am trying to show that Irving portrays Owen...

How does John Irving contrast Owen and John in A Prayer For Owen Meany to show that religion/faith must include struggles or it isn't realistic. I am trying to show that Irving portrays Owen Meany as having the stereotypical psychological profile of an “extremist” or “fanatic” to prove that having such blinded and straightforward faith, like a fanatic, isn’t always the best. In contrast, through the behaviors, actions and thoughts of John Wheelwright, Irving suggests that it is healthy to have struggles in your faith and that they are necessary in order to grow in one’s faith. What other support is there in the text?

Asked on by amandaszek

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

You are right to identify the wahy in which the novel focuses on the conflict between doubt and faith. This is of course achieved through the contrasting of the two central characters, John and Owen. Owen is shown to have an absolute and complete faith in God that is never shaken. He also believes that there is purpose in everything that happens. John, by contrast, is a character who has no strong sense of religion, and who encounters religion only through his friendship with Owen. As an adult he joins the Anglican Church, but it is clear that doubt is a part of his relationship with the church that he is never able to fully suppress. Note how he characterises his religious understanding:

Doubt one minute, faith the next--sometimes inspired, sometimes in despair.

He goes on to describe his faith as being a "church rummage faith--the kind that needs patching up every weekend." Clearly his faith cannot be compared to the faith that Owen Meany has. The problem with your question is that Irving does not seem to particularly present Owen Meany as a negative character because of his zealous faith. On the contrary, Owen is a much more attractive character than John, and seems to be a much more positive individual. The story seems to show the way in which extreme faith can actually support and help somebody to achieve what they need to achieve in life. If you were to offer me the choice of being either John or Owen, I would definitely select Owen because of his charisma and faith. John only seems to live a half-life with the problems that he experiences throughout the rest of his life.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,929 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question