There are three things about Owen Meany that are unusual. The first is that even when he reaches adulthood he is under five feet tall. The second is his damaged voicebox, trapped in a permanent scream that alternately amuses and scares those around him. The third? He calls himself GOD'S INSTRUMENT, and he might be right.Written by John Irving, A Prayer For Owen Meany (1989) is best described as intentional Glurge with an undercurrent of despairingPostmodernism. Critical reception has generally been positive, as has its reception by high school English teachers.
All Part of the Show: During the Nativity play, Owen (playing Jesus) stands up and addresses the audience, telling them they are not worthy and should be ashamed of themselves for even setting foot in a church. The audience sitting in the church assumes this is a sermon to them and part of the play; the reader knows that Owen was talking to his sacrilegious parents.
Boarding School: Owen and Johnny go to one,though Owen is a day student and Johnny lives in a faculty apartment with his stepfather, and watch as a new headmaster begins to turn it into a Boarding School of Horrors. Owen gets expelled for his resistance, but in the process he gets the headmaster fired.
Break Her Heart To Save Her: Downplayed. Owen purposely makes jabs at Hester and picks fights with her in his letters to "help her fall out of love with him before he died".
Johnny: (in narration) "Remember that?" or "Remember him?" When talking about famous people/events from the past.
Owen: "THERE'S NO NEED TO BE CRUDE." Usually talking to Hester, and sometimes Johnny. And "I KNOW __ THINGS." Used in his diary. First he knows 3 things about himself (his voice never changes, when he's going to die, and that he's God's instrument), then 2 things in his dream about his own death, and then 4 things about himself (expand the above list to include how he's going to die).
Johnny and Owen both use "give me the shivers" often enough to be a catch phrase as well, though Owen first and Johnny more.
Harriet Wheelwright: "I would rather be murdered by a maniac/madman."
Character Development: Owen starts the novel vehemently prejudiced against Catholics. By the end of the novel he's eased up considerably and even dies in the arms of a nun.
Chaste Hero: Johnny actively tries to lose his virginity for years, but is never able to find a girl interested in taking it from him. Fuel for some comic moments when he's older: A colleague's husband refers to him as a "non-practicing homosexual" (which is a term the man apparently made up). Hester tells Johnny's students that he's still a virgin (in his forties), and the girls think it's a joke.
Chekhov's Armory: Owen's height, voice, and strange complexion are all necessary attributes for him to have in order to save the Vietnamese children.
Chekhov's Skill: Owen is too short to dunk a basketball, but he's developed a trick where he jumps into Johnny's arms and Johnny helps him dunk. He insists that "it's not for a game," and that what matters is getting it done in under three seconds. As mentioned below, he knows a bit of the future . . .
Film of the Book: Simon Birch. An interesting comparison, as it starts out word-perfect to the source material and diverges further and further as the stories progress. It's as though the film was shot in sequence and the Executive Meddling was going on at the same time.
Fingore: Johnny is desperate to avoid the draft. The army won't draft people who're missing their trigger finger. Owen has access to a diamond saw.
Locked into Strangeness: Happens to older/narrating Johnny; his hair (which is already starting to go grey at the edges by this time) goes completely white after a shocking apparent beyond-the-grave encounter with Owen Meany.
Rule of Symbolism: Along with many parts of the book, Owen Meany tends to operate on this
Scholarship Student: Johnny, Owen and many nameless others. The town never built a public high school, having a standing arrangement with the Academy.
School Play: Acting in A Christmas Carol, Owen is a little too convincing as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Things go even worse when his small size gets him cast as Jesus in a Nativity play—midway through he sits up and calls out two audience members for alleged sacrilege.
Word of Gay: John Wheelwright. The author has said that he made it apparent that Johnny loves Owen, but kept it more subtle that he is in love with him. Perhaps a bit too subtle, though, since many readers don't pick up on this at all, despite John never sleeping with a girl and being called a "non-practicing homosexual" in later life. The issue of Johnny's sexuality seems to be more complex than that, though. While it's possible, even likely, that he has homoromantic feelings for his best friend, he is clearly described- at least when he's a kid- as being very much attracted to girls. The problem is that they are just as firmly not attracted to him.