A Prayer For Owen Meany Essay, Research Paper
A Prayer For Owen Meany
It is often the case in the novels with strong themes, that the author must rely on certain prearranged molds when shaping the major characters and their relationships with each other. These molded characters allow for the thematic content of the novel to be expressed more clearly. Hence, the thoughts and actions of the characters give a better idea to develop themes in the novel. A Separate Peace by John Knowles and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving are two novels that deal with similar themes. A Separate Peace deals with the events that alter the lives of two boys in a boarding school, while A Prayer for Owen Meany is the journey of two people from childhood to adulthood. Both works clearly define the true meaning of friendship and the obstacles it faces throughout the life. Due to the similar themes in these novels, one can find many similarities between the protagonists: Gene and John. By examining their attributes and relationships with their friends, one can tell that both these protagonists are somewhat comparable. They both have a guiding figure as a friend who is there to indicate them. Finally, the relationships between the protagonists and the guiding figures are the one in which the protagonist is truly guided and complimented by his best friend.
The protagonist in one book is similar in nature to the one in the other book, i.e. Gene Foster from A Separate Peace and John Wheelwright from A Prayer for Owen Meany. For example, the protagonist is definitely innately good but lacks to know the very self of him. This translates into a very vulnerable and an uncertain character, who must learn from the events that occur around him. Gene is a noble name, and he with no doubt is a gentleman with great determination. He comes from a good family and his goal is to excel in his studies. He is however, unsure of himself and others around him and this leads him to be quick to judge others. He judges his best friend to be plotting against him, whereas all that friends wants is to help him. Uncertainty is central to his character and results in a change in his character. It occurs when he pushes his best friend off a tree without knowing it. Later, when he analyzes the details of his action, he realizes that he harbors an evil that he did know existed. What he realizes through the course of the novel is that evil surrounds him and what he must search for is some sort of peace. Gene claims “?the escape we had concocted, this afternoon of momentary illusory, special and separate peace”(Pg. 128). Similar to Gene, John is the protagonist of A Prayer for Owen Meany. John is a noble name as well and symbolizes good. He also is a humble boy and a student at the start of the novel. What is most interesting about John, however, is his uncertainty as a child. He loses his mother to an unfortunate accident as child and is very upset by that. More importantly, he is uncertain of his place in the whole scheme of things. His mother makes him change churches frequently, as he never feels connection with God as a child. It is through his best friend, that he comes to what he is on the earth for. Therefore, it is evident that the protagonists of each novel are similar in nature as a result of the novels being similar in themes.
To guide the protagonist in each of the novels, there is a guiding figure, who is very vital to the theme of the novel. This guiding figure is symbolic of purity and personifies it. For example, Gene’s friend, Phineas sees that Gene lacks in his athletic and social life and decides to help him out. He urges him to play more and enjoy life. However, Gene cannot see that his friend is trying to help him, and doubts his nature. He unconsciously pushes him off the tree. But even then, Phineas’s nature is so innately good that he cannot see a flaw in his friend’s nature. Although he breaks his leg, he refuses to accept evil in anyone and continues to be the joyful individual he was before. He continues to be the beacon of good even after his tragic fall. In the end, when he is made to realize that his own friend had almost killed him, he does not believe it and becomes extremely upset and causes an accident that ultimately leads to his death. To sum it up, ” Phineas never was afraid? Phineas ever hated anyone”(Pg. 196). This is also the case with Owen Meany, the guiding figure in A Prayer for Owen Meany. He also personifies purity and true friendship. Owen is the voice of reason for John and supports him throughout the story. John learns from Owen some very relevant things about life, such as the importance of faith and belief in God. However, his most important gift is at the end of the novel, when he sacrifices his life for the good of other around him. He takes an armed grenade and john tosses him up to the window, an activity they remembered doing as children. John realizes after his friend’s death that he was right when he said that there is a purpose for everything. He remembers tossing Owen as a child and realizes that this is where he needed that skill. Owen had served as a guide for John and now John realizes what life is all about. He soon becomes a minister in a church, something that he never imagined to become before considering his uncertainty about religion. Therefore, the guiding figure in each of the novels is there to enforce a similar theme in each: to indicate their friends.
The relationship between the protagonist and the guiding figure is very vital to the theme of the novels. This relationship is one in which one character compliments the other. What one character lacks, the other has. In essence, the two are two equal parts of a whole. They are in other words, symbolic of Yin and Yang. The protagonists in most case represent the Yin: calm and feminine. The guiding figure represents Yang: the masculine and brighter character. Yin and Yang also compliment each other and together from the perfect whole. The guiding figure in most cases is the teacher to the protagonist. For example, Gene is guided by Phineas through his doubtless friendly nature and his encouragement to play more sports. In A Prayer for Owen Meany the relationship is evident between John and Owen. John is described as a well-built boy, while Owen as abnormally small. Therefore they compliment each other physically. In this novel, the Yin and Yang can be used once more to describe their relationship. Owen is rich of culture and religion, while John lacks this attribute. John was never exposed to a solid religion education as his mother changed churches often. John is like Yin, calm and feminine and Owen is Yang, the bright and masculine character. Therefore it is evident that as a result of the thematic content of the two novels, the relationship between the two central characters is almost identical.
In conclusion, the protagonists in both the novels were good at heart but uncertain and somewhat vulnerable. To help the protagonist, there was the guiding figure who symbolized purity and guided the protagonist towards light. Hence, due to similar thematic nature of A Separate Peace by John Knowles and A Prayer for Owen Meany the novels, many similarities can be found in the character attributes in both the novels.