A Prayer for Owen Meany

by John Irving

The protagonist’s hit ball kills his best friend’s mother and the rest of the book is spent in his dealing with his fate. Although this story comes with high recommendations for an adult audience it has some very questionable inclusions for a classroom presentation to teens. It has a modern spiritual philosophy which, as one reviewer warned, "may draw flak both from anti-religion people and the over zealous (due to Owen’s ‘virgin’ birth)." Another reviewer said, "It deals with predestination and faith…it raises questions as to what forces shape your life." One questionable element of the book is the narrator’s attributing his deep devotion to Christianity to Owen Meany and not necessarily Jesus Christ. There is some crude and vulgar vocabulary and women are portrayed and valued mostly as sexual identities, according to another reviewer. The sexual content is explicit.


If your student is required to read this book, you may wish to balance the negative content with at-home discussion that draws out positive lessons learned. The following set of questions may help you lead your student to a more positive result.

    1. Will the narrator ever realize that the higher power above Owen is the one responsible for his "conversion" to Christianity?
    2. Does the narrator put too much emphasis on Owen Meany as the influence in his life?
    3. Do you know Christians who are like this narrator and place too much awe, reverence, devotion on the human messenger of God's will than on God himself? I.e. the pastor as God? The priest as God? What is the outcome of this misplaced devotion?
    4. How does Owen Meany handle John's attitude concerning this?
    5. Is Owen Meany from God? Or an angel of Light?
    6. Has your faith increased due to this book?
    7. What are your questions?


One college student’s comments on the book:

I do not think it is wrong that Irving placed Jesus Christ into Owen Meany. I find it amazing literary-wise how Irving crafted the story. I wouldn't say the plot festers in ornateness, but comes alive with complexity. It's intricate; and if one thing were out of place, the whole story would be off. Cause and effect are very important to this novel. God works with "cause and effect" every day. Irving has created a life, a story that touched the very depths of my soul and continues to do so. IT is so moving, and should be to Christians, because it explores in GREAT DEPTH two of the most poignant themes in Christ life: obedience and sacrifice. We should be moved by the novel's artful expression of Christ's love for us. Do we not weep when we read over and over again of Christ's death on the cross?


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