A Prayer for Owen Meany


John Irving

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A Prayer for Owen Meany Characters

John Wheelwright

The narrator and protagonist of the book, John is an American living in Canada and teaching English at an all-girls Anglican boarding school. He is Tabitha’s son and Dan’s stepson, and although he… read analysis of John Wheelwright

Owen Meany

One of the protagonists of the novel, Owen Meany is John Wheelwright’s best friend and the reason he believes in God. Born premature, Owen is raised at his family’s granite quarry, where he is… read analysis of Owen Meany

John’s Mother / Tabitha Wheelwright

John’s mother, who is killed by Owen Meany’s foul ball when the boys were just eleven years old. She had a gifted singing voice and a stunning figure of which her sister, Martharead analysis of John’s Mother / Tabitha Wheelwright

Rev. Lewis Merrill

Tabitha Wheelwright’s ex-lover and John’s biological father. The popular pastor at the Congregational Church, Merrill has a degree in English from Princeton and speaks eloquently. His congregation loves him because he shares their… read analysis of Rev. Lewis Merrill

John’s Stepfather / Dan Needham

John’s stepfather and Tabitha’s husband. Dan met Tabitha on the train from Boston to Gravesend when he was on his way to interview at Gravesend Academy for a teaching position. He teaches history… read analysis of John’s Stepfather / Dan Needham
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Dick Jarvits

The antagonist in the novel, Dick Jarvits is a deeply troubled teenage boy whose older brother, Frank, was killed in Vietnam. Dick is obsessed with war and killing, and he often arms himself with lethal… read analysis of Dick Jarvits

John’s Grandmother / Harriet Wheelwright

John’s grandmother. Harriet was widowed from a young age, but she took great satisfaction in managing her family and her house herself. She was descended from John Adams, and her family first came to… read analysis of John’s Grandmother / Harriet Wheelwright

Hester Eastman

John Wheelwright’s female cousin, who is younger than her two brothers, Noah and Simon Eastman, but one year older than John. Being younger and smaller than her brothers, she can never beat them in… read analysis of Hester Eastman

Mr. Meany

Owen’s father and Mrs. Meany’s husband. Mr. Meany is from a working-class, Boston Irish family, and owns a granite quarry. He resents the private Gravesend Academy and is reluctant to send his son… read analysis of Mr. Meany

Mrs. Meany

Owen’s mother and Mr. Meany’s wife. She never leaves the house or opens the windows, because she is supposedly allergic to dust. She rarely speaks, and she is likely mentally impaired. She wholeheartedly… read analysis of Mrs. Meany

Randolph “Randy” White

Randy White succeeds Archibald Thorndike as the headmaster of Gravesend Academy. He was previously the headmaster of a small private school in Lake Forest, Illinois, a wealthy community that has historically excluded people of color… read analysis of Randolph “Randy” White

Dr. Dolder

The school psychiatrist at Gravesend Academy, Dr. Dolder is an elderly Swiss man. He attributes John’s difficulties in school to his childhood trauma rather than his learning disabilities. After hearing about Owen’s insulting… read analysis of Dr. Dolder

Noah Eastman

The eldest of John Wheelwright’s rambunctious cousins, Noah is three years older than John. He and his brother, Simon, are essentially good-natured, but they are extremely rowdy and competitive as children, and they… read analysis of Noah Eastman

Simon Eastman

Noah Eastman’s younger brother, Simon is two years older than John. He is wilder than Noah in childhood, and relishes crashing down mountains and provoking Noah into beating him up. He has injured… read analysis of Simon Eastman

Martha Eastman

John Wheelwright’s aunt, Alfred Eastman’s wife, and the mother of Noah, Simon, and Hester. Martha has always been slightly envious of her younger sister, Tabitha Wheelwright, who perpetually outshines… read analysis of Martha Eastman

Alfred Eastman

John Wheelwright’s uncle, Martha Eastman’s husband, and the father of Noah, Simon, and Hester. Alfred owns an extremely successful lumber company—“a lumber baron,” John calls him—and he embodies the height… read analysis of Alfred Eastman

Mr. Chickering

The kind manager and coach of John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s Little League baseball team. Right before Tabitha’s death, he tells Owen to bat for John in the lineup, and later tells Owen… read analysis of Mr. Chickering


The Wheelwrights’ former cook and housekeeper. After Lydia has her leg amputated due to cancer, Harriet hires two other maids, Ethel and Germaine, to care for her and Lydia. The family takes care of… read analysis of Lydia

Rev. Dudley Wiggin

An ex-pilot who became an Episcopalian clergyman, Dudley Wiggin is the rector of Christ Church. He flew a bomber plane in World War II and later believes that God supports America in the Vietnam War… read analysis of Rev. Dudley Wiggin

Barb Wiggin

A red-headed former stewardess, Barb is brash like her husband, Rev. Dudley Wiggin. She enjoys picking up Owen Meany, who hates her. He antagonizes her by seizing control of her Christmas pageant, and… read analysis of Barb Wiggin

Harold Crosby

A Sunday school classmate of John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s, Harold Crosby is a quiet, overweight boy who is unwillingly cast as the airborne Announcing Angel in the Christmas Pageant, despite being afraid of… read analysis of Harold Crosby

Mary Beth Baird

A Sunday school classmate of John Wheelwright and Owen Meany, Mary Beth Baird is a shy, clumsy, and plain girl unexpectedly chosen by Owen to play Mary in the Christmas pageant. She subsequently falls… read analysis of Mary Beth Baird

Buzzy Thurston

A boy on John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s Little League baseball team. He hits just before Owen in the lineup. In the game where Owen hits the foul ball that kills Tabitha Wheelwrightread analysis of Buzzy Thurston

Harry Hoyt

Another boy on John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s Little League baseball team. He is two spots above Owen in the lineup, and he walks to allow Owen to come to bat in the game… read analysis of Harry Hoyt

Mrs. Hoyt

Harry Hoyt’s mother. A widow who later loses her son to the Vietnam War, Mrs. Hoyt protests against the war and tries to help other boys evade the draft. She also teaches John Wheelwrightread analysis of Mrs. Hoyt

Mr. Morrison

The town mailman. Mr. Morrison is a tall and extremely gloomy man whom Dan Needham casts as the ominous Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol. However, Mr. Morrison vainly resigns from the… read analysis of Mr. Morrison

Mr. Early

Maureen Early’s father. An English teacher at Gravesend Academy who is also the school newspaper advisor under Headmaster Archibald Thorndike. He tries to defend Owen Meany’s bold editorials in the paper, but… read analysis of Mr. Early

Canon Mackie

The rector at Grace Church-on-the-Hill who succeeds Canon Campbell. John Wheelwright finds him warm and kind, but less sympathetic than Canon Campbell and less willing to debate the finer points of religion. He constantly… read analysis of Canon Mackie

Amanda and Arthur Dowling

A young married couple who believe in challenging gender norms. The Dowlings always request to be cast in the roles of the opposite sex in Gravesend’s theatrical productions. They also protest against girls’ exclusion from… read analysis of Amanda and Arthur Dowling

Archibald Thorndike

The headmaster of Gravesend Academy during John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s first two years of high school. “Thorny” is a classic “old-school” headmaster beloved by the student body. He believes in educating “the whole… read analysis of Archibald Thorndike

Larry Lish

A classmate of Owen and John’s, Larry is the rich, spoiled son of Herb Lish, a movie producer, and Mitzy Lish, a socialite. Larry is said to be “a charming sociopath” and a… read analysis of Larry Lish

Mitzy Lish

The mother of Larry Lish and ex-wife of Herb Lish, Mitzy Lish spoils her son with parties and girls, then cleans up after his messes. She is vain about her good looks, and is accustomed… read analysis of Mitzy Lish

Father Findley

Father Findley is the head of St. Michael’s, the Catholic church from which Owen Meany removed and vandalized the statue of Mary Magdalene. Father Dingley kindly forgives Owen for mutilating the statue and tries… read analysis of Father Findley

Canon Campbell

The rector at Grace Church-on-the-Hill. Canon Campbell is interested in helping Americans who have fled to Canada. He introduces John Wheelwright to Teddybear Kilgour, who gives him a job at Bishop Strachan. Before his… read analysis of Canon Campbell

Major Rawls

A ROTC professor in Arizona who serves as the Army’s liaison to the family of Frank Jarvits, a fallen soldier. Even after fighting in Korea and Vietnam, he was never promoted to lieutenant colonel. Major… read analysis of Major Rawls
Minor Characters
Chief Ben Pike
The town police chief who has always wanted to find the missing baseball that killed Tabitha Wheelwright. John Wheelwright later dates his daughter, Lorna.
Maureen Early
Mr. Early’s daughter. A girl in John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s year, Maureen wets her pants watching Owen perform as the terrifying Ghost of Christmas future in A Christmas Carol. She is best friends with Caroline O’Day.
Caroline O’Day
A girl in John Wheelwright and Owen Meany’s year who attends St. Michael’s Catholic school. She casually dates John but mostly rejects his advances. She is best friends with Maureen Early.
Rev. Katherine Keeling
The headmistress of Bishop Strachan. Wise and kind Rev. Katherine Keeling is a close friend of John Wheelwright. She often invites John to join her large family in their cozy vacation home on a tiny, secluded island in the Canadian wilderness, where he can get away from the world.
Mr. and Mrs. Ginger Brinker-Smith
A young British couple who live in the dormitories at Gravesend Academy. The unnamed husband, a biology teacher, once invited his attractive wife, Ginger, to demonstrate breastfeeding their newborn twins in class. John and Owen frequently fantasize about Ginger.
Graham McSwiney
Tabitha Wheelwright’s voice teacher. He diagnoses Owen Meany with a permanently fixed larynx and tells Owen and John Wheelwright about Tabitha’s secret singing gig as “The Lady in Red” at a supper club in Boston.
Buster Freebody
A queer black man who accompanied Tabitha Wheelwright on piano during her performances as “The Lady in Red” at a supper club in Boston. Owen and John try to find him and ask him about Tabitha, but eventually John learns that Buster has since passed away.
Teddybear Kilgour
The elderly principal of Bishop Strachan who trusts young John Wheelwright to teach at an all-girls school. He meets John through Canon Campbell.
Mrs. Walker
The Sunday school teacher for John and Owen’s class. Mrs. Walker frequently left the class unsupervised, likely to take smoke breaks. John and Owen admired her legs when she displayed them in town theatrical productions.
One of the maids who replaces Lydia, Germaine is shy and superstitious. She believes Owen Meany is unnatural and prone to devilish mischief. She resigns after Lydia dies.
One of the maids who replaces Lydia, Ethel is strong and capable but lacks intelligence and confidence.
Mr. Fish
Harriet Wheelwright’s neighbor. He owns a black Labrador named Sagamore who is struck and killed by a diaper truck. He plays Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and is terrified of Owen Meany as the Ghost of Christmas Future.