A Prayer for Owen Meany

John Wheelwright Character Analysis

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 adores his stepfather, John spends much of his life trying to find out who is biological father is. When he finally realizes that it’s the local reverend, Rev. Lewis Merrill, who is known for his doubt-filled sermons, John is deeply disappointed. In the book, John recalls how he came to believe in God after experiencing the extraordinary life story of his best friend from childhood, Owen Meany. If Owen’s life mirrored that of Jesus Christ, John’s life mirrors that of Jesus’s father, Joseph—a passive bystander, a sidelined virgin. Throughout his childhood, John always goes along with whatever plans Owen or John’s rowdy cousins (Hester, Noah, and Simon) suggest, rarely acting for himself. He never approaches girls with confidence, and he depends on Owen to help him through school and to help him escape the draft. John experiences many senseless tragedies in his life—his mother’s premature death in a freak accident at poor Owen’s hands, an untold number of needless deaths in Vietnam, even the violent death of Owen himself in an attack by a militant teenage psychopath named Dick. John claims that all these tragic deaths effectively “neutered” him (at 45, he’s still a virgin), and made him fatalistic and detached from life. Seeing Owen willingly sacrifice himself to save a group of innocent children makes John believe in God, yet he does not believe that he has the same God-given purpose as Owen did. After Owen’s death, John becomes painfully frustrated with the sheer amount of evil and complacent stupidity present in the world, but feels that he lacks the means to change anything. He concludes the book by humbling asking God to give Owen Meany back to him—but perhaps what he needs more is to be given a purpose of his own.

John Wheelwright Quotes in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The A Prayer for Owen Meany quotes below are all either spoken by John Wheelwright or refer to John Wheelwright. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany published in 1989.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Owen was so tiny, we loved to pick him up; in truth, we couldn’t resist picking him up. We thought it was a miracle: how little he weighed.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany, Mary Beth Baird
Related Symbols: Weightlessness
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 2 Quotes

I think [Hester] was up against a stacked deck from the start, and that everything she would become began for her when Noah and Simon made me kiss her—because they made it clear that kissing Hester was punishment, the penalty part of the game; to have to kiss Hester meant you had lost.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Hester Eastman, Noah Eastman, Simon Eastman
Page Number: 59
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“Your friend is most original,” Dan Needham said, with the greatest respect. “Don’t you see, Johnny? If he could, he would cut off his hands for you—that’s how it makes him feel, to have touched that baseball bat, to have swung that bat with those results. It’s how we all feel—you and me and Owen. We’ve lost a part of ourselves.” And Dan picked up the wrecked armadillo and began to experiment with it on my night table, trying—as I had tried—to find a position that allowed the beast to stand, or even to lie down, with any semblance of comfort or dignity; it was quite impossible…

And so Dan and I became quite emotional, while we struggled to find a way to make the armadillo’s appearance acceptable—but that was the point, Dan concluded: there was no way that any or all of this was acceptable. What had happened was unacceptable! Yet we still had to live with it.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), John’s Stepfather / Dan Needham (speaker), Owen Meany
Related Symbols: The Baseball, Armless Totems
Page Number: 89
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Chapter 3 Quotes

It made [Owen] furious when I suggested that anything was an “accident”—especially anything that had happened to him; on the subject of predestination, Owen Meany would accuse Calvin of bad faith. There were no accidents; there was a reason for that baseball—just as there was a reason for Owen being small, and a reason for his voice. In Owen’s opinion, he had INTERRUPTED AN ANGEL, he had DISTURBED AN ANGEL AT WORK, he had UPSET THE SCHEME OF THINGS.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker), John’s Mother / Tabitha Wheelwright
Related Symbols: The Baseball, The Voice
Page Number: 105
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Mrs. Hoyt was the first person I remember who said that to criticize a specific American president was not anti-American; that to criticize a specific American policy was not antipatriotic; and that to disapprove of our involvement in a particular war against the communists was not the same as taking the communists’ side. But these distinctions were lost on most of the citizens of Gravesend; they are lost on many of my former fellow Americans today.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Mrs. Hoyt (speaker)
Page Number: 131
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All those same crones, as black and hunchbacked as crows gathered around some roadkill—they came to the service as if to say: We acknowledge, O God, that Tabby Wheelwright was not allowed to get off scot-free.

Getting off “scot-free” was a cardinal crime in New Hampshire. And by the birdy alertness visible in the darting eyes of my grandmother’s crones, I could tell that—in their view—my mother had not escaped her just reward.

Page Number: 132
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Chapter 4 Quotes

Barb Wiggin looked at Owen as if she were revising her opinion of how “cute” he was, and the rector observed Owen with a detachment that was wholly out of character for an ex-pilot. The Rev. Mr. Wiggin, such a veteran of Christmas pageants, looked at Owen Meany with profound respect—as if he’d seen the Christ Child come and go, but never before had he encountered a little Lord Jesus who was so perfect for the part.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany, Rev. Dudley Wiggin, Barb Wiggin
Page Number: 169
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Chapter 5 Quotes

“He sounds a little sicker than I had in mind,” Dan told me on our way back to town. “I may have to play the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come myself. Or maybe—if Owen’s too sick—maybe you can take the part.”

But I was just a Joseph; I felt that Owen Meany had already chosen me for the only part I could play.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), John’s Stepfather / Dan Needham (speaker), Owen Meany
Page Number: 211
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Sexual stereotypes did not fall, [Amanda] liked to say, from the clear blue sky; books were the major influences upon children—and books that had boys being boys, and girls being girls, were among the worst offenders! Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, for example; they were an education in condescension to women—all by themselves, they created sexual stereotypes! Wuthering Heights, for example: how that book taught a woman to submit to a man made Amanda Dowling “see red,” as she would say.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Amanda and Arthur Dowling (speaker)
Page Number: 244-245
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Chapter 6 Quotes

Anyone can be sentimental about the Nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don’t believe in the resurrection, you’re not a believer.

“IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN EASTER,” Owen Meany said. “DON’T KID YOURSELF—DON’T CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN.”

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker)
Page Number: 283
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Chapter 7 Quotes

“IF WE CAN DO IT IN UNDER FOUR SECONDS, WE CAN DO IT IN UNDER THREE,” he said. “IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE MORE FAITH.”

“It takes more practice,” I told him irritably.

“FAITH TAKES PRACTICE,” said Owen Meany.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker)
Page Number: 346-347
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According to The New York Times, a new poll has revealed that most Americans believe that President Reagan is lying; what they should be asked is, Do they care?

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker)
Page Number: 377
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I remember the independent study that Owen Meany was conducting with the Rev. Lewis Merrill in the winter term of l962. I wonder if those cheeseburgers in the Reagan administration are familiar with Isaiah 5:20. As The Voice would say: “WOE UNTO THOSE THAT CALL EVIL GOOD AND GOOD EVIL.”

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker), Rev. Lewis Merrill
Related Symbols: The Voice
Page Number: 402
Explanation and Analysis:
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As always, with Owen Meany, there was the necessary consideration of the symbols involved. He had removed Mary Magdalene’s arms, above the elbows, so that her gesture of beseeching the assembled audience would seem all the more an act of supplication—and all the more helpless. Dan and I both knew that Owen suffered an obsession with armlessness—this was Watahantowet’s familiar totem, this was what Owen had done to my armadillo. My mother's dressmaker’s dummy was armless, too.

But neither Dan nor I was prepared for Mary Magdalene being headless—for her head was cleanly sawed or chiseled or blasted off.

Related Symbols: Armless Totems
Page Number: 409
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 8 Quotes

What we witnessed with the death of Kennedy was the triumph of television; what we saw with his assassination, and with his funeral, was the beginning of television’s dominance of our culture—for television is at its most solemnly self-serving and at its mesmerizing best when it is depicting the untimely deaths of the chosen and the golden. It is as witness to the butchery of heroes in their prime—and of all holy-seeming innocents— that television achieves its deplorable greatness.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany
Page Number: 448
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“YOU HAVE NO DOUBT SHE’S THERE?” [Owen] nagged at me.

“Of course I have no doubt!” I said.

“BUT YOU CAN’T SEE HER—YOU COULD BE WRONG,” he said.

“No, I’m not wrong—she’s there, I know she’s there!” I yelled at him.

“YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW SHE’S THERE—EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN’T SEE HER?” he asked me.

“Yes!” I screamed.

“WELL, NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT GOD,” said Owen Meany. “I CAN’T SEE HIM—BUT I ABSOLUTELY KNOW HE IS THERE!”

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker)
Related Symbols: Armless Totems
Page Number: 458
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Chapter 9 Quotes

What has happened to me has simply neutered me.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker)
Page Number: 521
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“SINCE I DISCOVERED SEVERAL YEARS AGO, THAT I WAS LIVING IN A WORLD WHERE NOTHING BEARS OUT IN PRACTICE WHAT IT PROMISES INCIPIENTLY, I HAVE TROUBLED MYSELF VERY LITTLE ABOUT THEORIES. I AM CONTENT WITH TENTATIVENESS FROM DAY TO DAY.”

Related Characters: Owen Meany (speaker), John Wheelwright
Page Number: 528
Explanation and Analysis:
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Dan Needham, occasionally, stares at me that way, too. How could he possibly think I could “forgive and forget”? There is too much forgetting. When we schoolteachers worry that our students have no sense of history, isn’t it what people forget that worries us?

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), John’s Stepfather / Dan Needham
Page Number: 532
Explanation and Analysis:
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Because he’d wished my mother dead, my father said, God had punished him; God had taught Pastor Merrill not to trifle with prayer. And I suppose that was why it had been so difficult for Mr. Merrill to pray for Owen Meany—and why he had invited us all to offer up our silent prayers to Owen, instead of speaking out himself. And he called Mr. and Mrs. Meany “superstitious”! Look at the world: look at how many of our peerless leaders presume to tell us that they know what God wants! It’s not God who’s fucked up, it’s the screamers who say they believe in Him and who claim to pursue their ends in His holy name!

Related Symbols: The Baseball
Page Number: 554
Explanation and Analysis:
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“YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND,” said Owen Meany—his voice breaking a little. I assumed it was the telephone; I thought we had a bad connection.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Voice
Page Number: 589
Explanation and Analysis:
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When we held Owen Meany above our heads, when we passed him back and forth—so effortlessly—we believed that Owen weighed nothing at all. We did not realize that there were forces beyond our play. Now I know they were the forces that contributed to our illusion of Owen's weightlessness; they were the forces we didn’t have the faith to feel, they were the forces we failed to believe in—and they were also lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands.

O God—please give him back! I shall keep asking You.

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany, Mary Beth Baird
Related Symbols: Weightlessness
Page Number: 627
Explanation and Analysis:
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John Wheelwright Character Timeline in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The timeline below shows where the character John Wheelwright appears in A Prayer for Owen Meany. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Foul Ball
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John Wheelwright believes he is “doomed” never to forget Owen Meany, an extremely small boy with... (full context)
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John was baptized into the Congregational Church, confirmed in the Episcopalian Church, attended nondenominational church as... (full context)
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However, despite John’s strong personal ties to the Anglican Church, he acknowledges that he sometimes skips Sunday services,... (full context)
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John recalls how as children, he and his peers would take advantage of Owen’s miniature size... (full context)
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...the classroom while ordering the class to think silently about the Bible in her absence. John thinks she was probably addicted to smoking, and had to take smoke breaks. While she... (full context)
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...small to throw it. However, his unique voice made his complaints entertaining to listen to. John now believes Owen’s voice motivated the Sunday school class to mess with him—they liked to... (full context)
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...and found Owen up in the air, she would scold him for leaving his seat. John found this extremely stupid of her, to imagine that Owen could possibly have lifted himself... (full context)
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...never struggled or made a commotion, only waited for someone to put him back down. John didn’t imagine at the time that Owen was really a hero. (full context)
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John identifies himself as a Wheelwright, one of the local families whose names still carried weight... (full context)
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The Wheelwright family lived in Gravesend, New Hampshire, a town bought by John’s namesake, Rev. John Wheelwright, from an Indian sagamore in 1638. A sagamore was the name... (full context)
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...Gravesend’s founding families, “Meany” is nowhere to be found, but Wheelwright is foremost. Wheelwright was John’s mother’s name, and she never gave it up. John kept her name as well, since... (full context)
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After John’s mother died, Owen and John talked about the unsolved mystery of his father. They skipped... (full context)
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While New Hampshire is known as the Granite State, its biggest business was originally lumber. John’s uncle, Alfred Eastman, was in the lumber business. He married John’s aunt, Martha. Owen Meany’s... (full context)
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Owen read the book History of Gravesend when he was very young, and told John that it was full of Wheelwrights. John was born in the Wheelwright house after his... (full context)
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John’s mother took the train to Boston once a week and stayed overnight for an early... (full context)
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Although Martha and others frowned on John’s mother’s conduct, she was never bothered by their disapproval. She happily called her son her... (full context)
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John occasionally resented his mother’s weekly absences. John’s mother only canceled her trips when he was... (full context)
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John was born in his grandmother Harriet’s grand old brick house. The house included a secret... (full context)
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John explains that Harriet, while snobbish, was also generous and noble. When her longtime maid, Lydia,... (full context)
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John and Owen both joined the Episcopal Church after leaving the Congregational Church and the Catholic... (full context)
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John reflects that he partially took pleasure from manhandling Owen during Sunday school because he was... (full context)
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...and was insulted by jokes. He read the whole Bible, and was a brilliant student. John was not a strong student, and he wouldn’t have been admitted to the town’s private... (full context)
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Gravesend Academy was an extremely old institution, founded in 1781. John’s mother secretly visited Owen’s parents to convince them to allow Owen to go there—Owen could... (full context)
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Owen had a crush on John’s mother, who couldn’t resist touching Owen. Owen tells John that she has the best breasts... (full context)
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Owen and John were eleven when John’s mother died. It was summer, and they were growing bored with... (full context)
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...letting the first two pitches go, Owen hit the third ball foul, and it struck John’s mother in the head, killing her almost instantly. Mr. Chickering reached her first; he closed... (full context)
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Owen fled the game after apologizing to John for hitting the ball, and everyone later assumed he took the fatal ball from the... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Armadillo
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John’s mother’s name was Tabitha, but everyone called her Tabby. Only her mother refused to call... (full context)
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Owen once told John, “YOUR MOTHER IS SO SEXY, I KEEP FORGETTING SHE’S ANYBODY’S MOTHER.” Indeed, Tabitha’s sex appeal... (full context)
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...hips, but she liked to wear things that flattered her ample chest and small waist. John wonders if she was a flirt, or if she just discarded her inhibitions on the... (full context)
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...because he was gawky and far from handsome; he also knew just how to kindle John’s curiosity with a mysterious package. John peeks into the package when he isn’t supposed to,... (full context)
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Before the armadillo, all the excitement in John’s life came from visits with his cousins up north, in the rural country. His cousins... (full context)
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John’s cousin Hester was more drawn to her father’s robust role model, and disdained the constraints... (full context)
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John now sees the societal forces at work in Hester’s later sexual rebellion, observing that she... (full context)
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Even after John tells Owen about how “physically damaging and psychologically upsetting” his visits to his cousins are,... (full context)
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Owen becomes very attached to John’s stuffed armadillo, and asks if he can take care of it when John is with... (full context)
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The night before Owen comes over, he calls John to check in. One more time, they go over everything about the Eastmans: Noah is... (full context)
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...bad first impression with his freak voice. So he waits quietly to be noticed by John and the Eastmans, who are naturally making as much of a ruckus as one can... (full context)
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John and Tabitha drive after Owen, and find him pushing his bike up the hill, wet... (full context)
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...and a kiss, and she promises him that he can always come with them anywhere. John puts his arm around Owen until he’s ready to go back to the house. Owen... (full context)
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Owen stays the night at John’s, and remarks how it’s difficult to go to sleep without the armadillo, now that he’s... (full context)
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...card collection, his most prized possession. Dan says that Owen gave the beloved cards to John as a gesture of apology, trust, and love, and that Owen surely wishes for John... (full context)
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Owen returns the armadillo to John after removing its front claws so that it can no longer hold itself upright. John... (full context)
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Later, Owen would tell John what else he meant to communicate through the armless armadillo: “GOD HAS TAKEN YOUR MOTHER.... (full context)
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John steps back into the present: January 1987, where he’s walking his dog in the snow... (full context)
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...establishing a “beachhead” in Central America from which to spread Communism in the Western Hemisphere. John criticizes Americans and their leaders for forgetting recent history: for example, the massive antiwar demonstrations... (full context)
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John asks if people today remember the Tet Offensive, a fierce North Vietnamese offensive during the... (full context)
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John says that Owen kept him out of Vietnam, which he’s very grateful for. In fact,... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Angel
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...the store. The dummy was designed to match Tabitha’s physical measurements exactly, and at night John and Dan frequently mistook it for Tabitha standing next to the bed. (full context)
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John and Owen liked to play dress-up with the dummy and Tabitha’s clothes. She was practical,... (full context)
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...feeling very ill with a fever. He went to Tabitha’s bedroom, and came back to John’s room to tell him he saw an angel by Tabitha’s bed. John thought Owen must... (full context)
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John thinks that this angel sighting was just a feverish  hallucination that Owen believed was real.... (full context)
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...her dresser. Owen would frequently recall Harriet “wailing like a banshee,” which Dan later told John referred to a female spirit in Irish folklore whose wailing foreshadowed a loved one’s death. (full context)
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...because she had already been in such a hasty affair when she became pregnant with John. John thinks that maybe she waited to prove the town wrong about her impulsive judgment,... (full context)
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...specific obstacle but just “to be sure.” During their four-year courtship, Tabitha gradually started bringing John to the Episcopal Church and gradually stopped going to her singing lessons. Dan would never... (full context)
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John worried that maybe he was the problem—that Dan wouldn’t marry Tabitha until she told him... (full context)
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...Dan’s marriage, either. Both churches approved of the couple and wanted them for their congregations. John preferred the atmosphere and the reverend of the Congregational Church to those of the Episcopal... (full context)
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...with a manner as brash as his own, and their kids were great, bulky athletes. John didn’t really understand why they had to leave Merrill’s church for Wiggin’s, but Tabitha implied... (full context)
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Back in the present, Coach Chickering is dying of Alzheimer’s. He occasionally remembers John and says things like “Owen’s batting for you, Johnny!” and “You don’t want to see... (full context)
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John recalls that Mrs. Hoyt was the first person to suggest to him that criticizing the... (full context)
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...Owen up to bat when he should have been out on an easy grounder. But John admits maybe he just didn’t see Buzzy, since the church was so full, as packed... (full context)
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...shared the service. When it came time for the ending hymn, a song about resurrection, John knew that Owen would sing it at the top of his lungs, being extremely fond... (full context)
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When the mourners proceed to the cemetery, John notices several people holding their ears. He doesn’t understand why until he hears it for... (full context)
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At the funeral at Harriet’s house, John’s cousins are subdued. Harriet is stoic, and Martha is overwhelmed by grief and disbelief. Hester... (full context)
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John and Hester walk into the cemetery to find Owen praying over Tabitha’s grave. When John... (full context)
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Owen says he’ll keep the dummy with him, since Dan, John, and Harriet shouldn’t have it around to look at. Hester points out that he really... (full context)
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In the present, it is February 1987, and John believes in angels now. He is upset that he wasn’t elected—or even nominated—for any of... (full context)
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John rebukes himself for allowing childish petty thoughts to distract him from the service. But even... (full context)
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John also struggles to sincerely proclaim the language of the Nicene Creed and the general confession.... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Little Lord Jesus 
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John spends the Christmas after Tabitha’s death at home. Harriet argues that if the whole family... (full context)
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Harriet tends to get cranky when Owen and John play at her house, so they would rather spend their days at Dan’s dorm. The... (full context)
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...Ginger into his biology class to demonstrate nursing in mammals—an “eye-opening” illustration that Owen and John are extremely sad to have missed. During Christmas break, they often linger around the Brinker-Smiths’... (full context)
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Owen and John let themselves into the students’ rooms and go through all their belongings. Owen looks through... (full context)
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...unhappy—“HOW CAN YOU BE HAPPY IF YOU SPEND ALL YOUR TIME THINKING ABOUT DOING IT?” John thinks that the rooms are probably less illuminating than Owen believes them to be, given... (full context)
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The older boys’ rooms show John and Owen what awaits them in adolescence—secrets, messiness, lust. In one room, they find condoms,... (full context)
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...to play the Announcing Angel anymore, and proceeds to cast the play himself. He chooses John to play Joseph, which John isn’t happy about—he considers Joseph to be an “uninspiring” part,... (full context)
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Back in the present in Toronto, John reflects on how he prefers attending weekday services to Sunday worship. On weekdays, he has... (full context)
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...ago, Mr. Fish had a dog named Sagamore. One September day, he convinced Owen and John to play football with him. The boys only liked to see Sagamore lunge after the... (full context)
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In the Christmas of 1953, John says he was mostly unaware of Owen’s orchestrations. He couldn’t tell if the Meanys celebrated... (full context)
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Mr. Meany is pleasant whenever John stops by with Owen, but Mrs. Meany only stares into the distance, or into the... (full context)
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John goes back inside to get his hat. In Owen’s room, he finds Mrs. Meany sitting... (full context)
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...worker, but she in’t very bright or self-assured. Unlike Lydia, she is no fun for John and Owen to scare. The second maid is named Germaine, and she is young, extremely... (full context)
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Unlike Ethel, Germaine makes a great target for John and Owen to scare, and they frequently do. She is superstitious, and Owen’s size and... (full context)
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...granite dust. She then asks whether Owen ever kept the information about Tabitha’s voice teacher. John lies and says no, wanting to explore this information privately. (full context)
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One afternoon when John and Owen are exploring a room on the second floor of the dorm, they hear... (full context)
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...convinces him to let him rehearse that afternoon and test the reactions of the cast. John already knows what Owen’s test will prove—he can see how unsettled Owen has made Harriet... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Ghost of the Future 
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...diminished—he is upset to hear what a terrific splash Owen has made in the part. John wonders if Owen’s parents know about his impressive performance. Dan asks Owen if he would... (full context)
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...darkened with eyeliner. But his cold is getting worse, and he’s coughing frequently. Dan tells John that he might have to play Owen’s part if Owen is too sick, but John... (full context)
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...him after she learned that he didn’t own one. He coughs horribly while he and John walk to the church. Owen is very disappointed that Harriet isn’t coming to the pageant,... (full context)
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...was Tabitha. When Barb lays him in the manger, it becomes apparent to her and John that Owen has an erection, visible through his tightly swaddled clothes. Owen is angry and... (full context)
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...of them get up to leave along with Mr. Meany and Mrs. Meany. Owen tells John to get him out of there, so he and Mary Beth carry him down the... (full context)
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Back in the present in Toronto, it is now February. John remarks on his church’s communion services, expressing his preference for a lightly attended communion, where... (full context)
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Nonetheless, John expresses his admiration for Rev. Keeling, who is his favorite person to talk to in... (full context)
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John is left to try and talk to Canon Mackie about his frustrations with President Reagan’s... (full context)
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Mackie believes that John lives in the past, and even John himself wonders if his fondness for Canon Campbell... (full context)
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...mortally wounded patient laid out on a stretcher. “How can you like Christmas after that?” John asks. Outside the church after Owen’s departure, the rest of the children have no idea... (full context)
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...the drama of the Nativity—he thinks Owen’s improvisations are part of the biblical account. When John goes to gather his and Owen’s clothes, he finds Mary Beth weeping on top of... (full context)
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Barb grabs John as he finally leaves with Owen’s clothes and shakes him, ordering him to tell Owen... (full context)
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John wishes he was back at Sawyer Depot for Christmas Eve. This year, he and Dan... (full context)
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John goes backstage to see Owen, who is so feverish that he barely needs his makeup... (full context)
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From backstage, John looks out into the audience. Mr. Morrison is there, as is Rev. Merrill and his... (full context)
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John watches the audience until Owen comes on stage, and he sees their faces transformed by... (full context)
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Merrill drives Owen home and drops John off at Harriet’s house. He seems to believe that Owen had an upsetting “vision,” but... (full context)
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...an overactive imagination. Germaine is so beside herself that she is put to bed in John’s room. John wants to call Owen, but he has to wait for Germaine to fall... (full context)
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As Germaine tosses and turns, John begins to imagine climbing into her bed and taking advantage of her distraught state. He... (full context)
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John goes into the kitchen to call Owen. He tells Owen everything that he realized that... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Voice 
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...because she never worked in her life, never told Tabitha to work, and never gave John any chores. She thought watching television demanded too little effort. But after she sees a... (full context)
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John and Owen didn’t know what would be on TV—they were only familiar with the films... (full context)
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...Owen both appreciate one show, at least—The Liberace Show, featuring the flamboyant piano prodigy Liberace. John cannot understand their love for such a kitschy performer, whose attention to his costumes surpassed... (full context)
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John complains to Dan about feeling left out of this ridiculous phenomenon. Dan is a good... (full context)
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John still thinks it’s absurd for Owen, who thinks he’s so smart, to adore Liberace, but... (full context)
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...Owen has no problem earning admission and a full scholarship with his stellar grades, but John has to repeat a year of school before the academy will admit him. Owen could... (full context)
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...of nuns. Ironically for such an unusual boy, he thinks they are “UNNATURAL”—but he and John can’t resist throwing chestnuts at the statue every fall, or covering its feet with tadpoles... (full context)
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Owen and John continue trying to solve the mystery of John’s father by watching the crowds at Dan’s... (full context)
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...Hester skipped a grade to end up in the same graduating year as her brothers. John is disappointed not to see more of Hester, whom he has un-cousinly feelings for. Owen... (full context)
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...after Hester became involved with a native boatman the previous year. They still don’t invite John and Owen to Sawyer Depot, to the boys’ regret. They’re both fifteen, and slightly in... (full context)
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Back in the present year, it’s Palm Sunday. John always finds the week before Easter to be exhausting—he worries that Jesus couldn’t possibly have... (full context)
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After the Palm Sunday service, John heads to the dining hall of The Bishop Strachan School, where he teaches. He reflects... (full context)
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Rev. Katherine Keeling, the headmistress, oversees the meal. John thinks she is fantastic, but finds her too thin. He sees her not eating at... (full context)
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Katherine reminds John of Harriet in a way—they both have a gift for sarcasm and diction. He thinks... (full context)
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...Easter Sunday, the weather has miraculously changed from cold and rainy to humid and summery. John compares the change in weather to walking into the bright light from inside the dark... (full context)
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In the summer of 1958, Owen and John turn sixteen and get their drivers licenses. Owen gets his license first, because he had... (full context)
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...Owen drives Mr. Meany’s tomato-red pickup truck down to the boardwalk at Hampton Beach with John. They drive along the strip and look at girls until a cop pulls them over... (full context)
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The boardwalk girls may have ignored them, but John notices that women find Owen attractive. He has a confidence borne from earning his way... (full context)
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In the fall of 1958, when John and Owen finally start at Gravesend Academy, Owen looks especially sophisticated in the clothes Harriet... (full context)
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...mastered a subtle aura of danger and maturity for her age. She dresses well, although John thinks “her body belonged in the jungle, covered only essentially.” She wears a fitted, short,... (full context)
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Over the summer, John gives tours of the school while Owen returns to the quarries. Owen doesn’t talk about... (full context)
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...out of the running for president after being found in a hotel with a model. John thinks that Hart will surely be back—“remember Nixon?” John criticizes Americans for caring more about... (full context)
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...his favorite game, Owen still plays soccer, tennis, and basketball throughout the year. He makes John practice a coordinated “slam-dunk” shot with him, where John boosts him high enough into the... (full context)
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Owen and John have plenty of time to practice over Christmas, as the Eastmans continue to not invite... (full context)
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The school psychiatrist, Dr. Dolder, believes that John’s studies are hampered by his past and ongoing psychological traumas, no matter how much John... (full context)
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Back in the present, John buys a newspaper about Reagan’s illegal support for the Nicaraguan contras. He considers again that... (full context)
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John is teaching his senior girls Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, a nineteenth-century novel about... (full context)
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The rest of the Gravesend boys, including John, are “an atheistic mob,” taken with secular writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Sartre, and... (full context)
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Back in the present, John runs into the mother of a girl in his Grade 12 English class. While he’s... (full context)
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...was willing to even read the book aloud to him if that would help, but John refused. Owen says he can either do all of John’s homework for him, or he... (full context)
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...“Randy,” was the headmaster of a small private day school in Lake Forest, Illinois, which John understands to be “a super-rich and exclusively WASP community that does its utmost to pretend... (full context)
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Back in the present, John continues to follow the Iran-contra affair in the Canadian newspapers. He vows not to talk... (full context)
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One of John’s fellow teachers also tries to prompt him into a political rant, but he restrains himself... (full context)
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In the summer of 1960, John and Owen turned eighteen, and they swam in the quarry lake without a rope. They... (full context)
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...a mock election for the student body, and he is a big JFK supporter, to John’s surprise—John F. Kennedy is Catholic. JFK wins the student election in a landslide, although most... (full context)
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...impressed with Kennedy’s famous inaugural speech, which he would go on to regularly quote to John: “ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU—ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Dream 
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When Owen and John were seniors, practicing the shot in the school gymnasium, Owen finally tells him what he... (full context)
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That fall, John only applies to the University of New Hampshire, while Owen applies to Harvard and Yale.... (full context)
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After their disagreement, Owen and John finally manage to make the basketball shot in under four seconds. Owen immediately wants to... (full context)
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...anymore, having become self-righteous and law-abiding after taking Kennedy’s speech to heart. So he and John have to endure their trips to Boston completely sober, even the shows at the strip... (full context)
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Once Owen and John get to the store, they see that Tabitha had lied about it burning down. Owen... (full context)
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Next Owen takes John to the office of Tabitha’s singing teacher, Graham McSwiney, who gave Owen an appointment to... (full context)
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Owen refuses, saying, “IF GOD GAVE ME THIS VOICE, HE HAD A REASON.” John asks McSwiney why Owen’s voice hasn’t changed with puberty, and McSwiney says he can’t explain... (full context)
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...accompanist was a gay black man named Buster Freebody—another made-up name. McSwiney says he isn’t John’s father—he once tried to make a pass at Tabitha, but she turned him down. Owen... (full context)
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Back in the present, John scoffs at a headline about Reagan in The New York Times. He remembers New Year’s... (full context)
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In 1961, John and Owen still scanned the audiences at Dan’s shows to find John’s father. Now they... (full context)
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Owen wants to go to the gym and practice their basketball shot, but John doesn’t want to. He asks Owen why Hester drinks so much, and Owen says Hester... (full context)
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Back in the present, it’s June in Toronto. John bought a copy of The New York Times after talking to a car full of... (full context)
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In 1966, there were 385,300 Americans in Vietnam, and John was by himself at Harriet’s house. In 1967, there were 485,600 Americans in Vietnam, and... (full context)
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On January 1, 1962, Owen wrote in his diary, “I know I am God’s instrument.” John still didn’t understand the extent to which Owen believed God was guiding his life, which... (full context)
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Owen is very disturbed all week by this rumor—he idolizes JFK, and John says he wasn’t “sophisticated enough to separate public and private morality.” Today, John says, an... (full context)
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In the present, it’s a hot July in Toronto, and John is back in the bad habit of buying The New York Times. The paper’s poll... (full context)
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...even cooked. Larry told everyone all about his mother—he thought she was a joke. But John and Owen are very intimidated by her, and feel very provincial in her presence. (full context)
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...Randy White. Owen tries to defend himself to White, but it’s hard for him and John to put into words exactly what kind of sexual bullying Mitzy had taunted him with.... (full context)
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Back in Toronto in July, John is still waiting to be invited to Georgian Bay, and still raging at The New... (full context)
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Back to July in Toronto—John is getting his hair cut, and he tells the barber he wants it as short... (full context)
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Merrill was the first person after John to ask Owen if he had been involved with moving the car onstage. Once Owen... (full context)
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...be on probation for the whole spring term. The Executive Committee “crucified” Owen, according to John. He is expelled. Old Archibald Thorndike publicly condemns the decision, as well as “the Gestapo... (full context)
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...but he says that he’ll make her even more proud. He asks her to tell John and Dan to be sure to come to the next morning assembly. Worried about what... (full context)
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John tells his friends to tell everyone to come to the meeting early, and Dan tells... (full context)
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...Owen asks him to say a prayer for him at that morning’s meeting. Dan steers John out of the office so Owen and Merrill can talk. As they leave, John hears... (full context)
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Walking back to the Main Academy Building, Dan and John see Randy kissing his wife, Sam, goodbye. Randy expects to lead a triumphant morning assembly,... (full context)
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...understand it. He says he wants to go to the University of New Hampshire with John, anyway. He doesn’t have his scholarship anymore, but he finds another one: he enlists in... (full context)
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...he wouldn’t have to wait a year to start college and he could be with John, but he doesn’t say anything about the six years he would be gone afterwards. (full context)
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Dan and John wonder how Owen passed the height and weight requirement. Owen proudly informs them that he... (full context)
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...‘enough.’” The students pray in silence until White has left the building—then Merrill says, “Amen.” John regrets that he didn’t know how to pray better back then. He wishes he could... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Finger 
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John says that up until the summer of 1962, he had always wanted to grow up... (full context)
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...had two heart bypass operations, but he’s all right. Martha still wants to know who John’s father is, but all John confides, teasing her, is, “Dan Needham is the best father... (full context)
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...it. Hester was angry and indifferent to the world. While they spend the summer together, John can’t manage to have one successful date, despite all his cousins’ efforts—he’s too timid and... (full context)
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Back in July in Canada, John discovers that it is possible to buy newspapers on the coast a short distance from... (full context)
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Being on the island makes John think of what the land of Gravesend must have been like before Watahantowet sold it... (full context)
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...cut up from the glass. He tells them that Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose. John calls Owen that night, and Owen says that Marilyn “WAS JUST LIKE OUR WHOLE COUNTRY…VERY... (full context)
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Back in July in Canada, John is still reading the newspapers. Owen believed that the most discouraging thing about the anti-war... (full context)
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In the fall of 1962, John and Owen became freshmen at the University of New Hampshire. They still lived at home.... (full context)
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...for having a conspicuously old truck among his classmates’ identical new Volkswagen Beetles. He and John become friends with all of Hester’s friends, which leaves them friendless when Hester graduates. In... (full context)
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...The guy calls Owen little, and Hester claims that Owen has “the biggest penis ever.” John thinks that she’s right—from what he glimpsed in the gym locker room, Owen’s “doink” is... (full context)
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John is jealous of Owen’s tan and muscles, and suspects Owen of interfering with his plan... (full context)
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John has another disappointing summer in terms of dates. He recalls, “I was twenty-one and I... (full context)
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Back in Canada in July, John still can’t quit reading newspapers. He is fascinated by a story about black holes, which... (full context)
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John thinks that “television is at its most solemnly self-serving and at its mesmerizing best when... (full context)
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...statue to make it a less tempting target for kids like him to aim at. John imagines that Owen is talking about his dream to everyone but him. In 1964, Owen... (full context)
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...pleased by it, while Hester thinks it’s disturbing—she’s fed up with Owen’s preoccupation with death. John prefers the new statue to the old. (full context)
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In the summer of 1964, John agrees to keep practicing the shot if Owen will finally let him work in the... (full context)
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In the fall, the darker gray color of the statue disappears in the shadows. John once asked Owen if the statue resembled the angel Owen once thought he saw. Owen... (full context)
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Back in Canada in July, Katherine tells John to stop reading the newspapers. She points out that it’s been a long time since... (full context)
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...enlisted and hated the service. Some claimed they deserted because the war was “insupportable,” but John suspects them of saying this as a politically acceptable excuse. He says that moving to... (full context)
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As John says, “we Wheelwrights have rarely suffered.” Schools in Canada were impressed by his degrees and... (full context)
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...came didn’t stay, due to how poorly Canadians treated them on account of their race. John stayed silent on the subject of Canada’s flaws, not wanting to be an angry American... (full context)
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John says his experience followed the truism that no one is more zealous than the convert,... (full context)
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...end to the relentless guerilla conflict in sight, it was more like “DESTROY AND DESTROY.” John can’t imagine Harry Hoyt effectively searching and destroying “anything”; Owen remarks, “HAS IT OCCURRED TO... (full context)
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...number-one graduate from his ROTC unit, he will surely be assigned to a combat branch. John scoffs at Owen’s desire to be a hero in such a stupid war—he tells him... (full context)
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...his choice of a combat branch guaranteed. Owen is so upset by his failure that John feels guilty for trying to undermine him—but he still doesn’t want Owen to be assigned... (full context)
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...Vietnam were getting underway. Hester must have attended about half the protests across the country, John says. He’s typically undecided—he thinks the protestors have a lot more sense than the supporters... (full context)
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...students are more receptive, nearing the end of their college draft exemptions upon graduation. Although John is going to grad school, student deferments will end during his first year for any... (full context)
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Mrs. Hoyt tells John about his options for avoiding the draft: convincingly faking a history of mental illness like... (full context)
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Everyone thinks Owen is crazy for chasing a combat-branch assignment. John asks him why he wants to be a hero and go to Vietnam, and Owen... (full context)
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While Owen and John argue, Hester is cooking dinner, which John says is always carelessly prepared and unappetizing. Before... (full context)
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John prompts Owen to explain the dream. Owen says he saves Vietnamese children, not soldiers, in... (full context)
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John says again that it’s just a dream. He points out that Owen’s touchy feelings about... (full context)
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John and Owen go to the breakwater and Rye Harbor, then to the ER so Owen... (full context)
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Owen and John stay up watching a movie that reminds John of the Orange Grove. John asks Owen... (full context)
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Owen and John try to plan a trip for the summer—John isn’t working before he starts to teach... (full context)
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...old valedictorian speech to the empty chairs lined up on the lawn. He won’t tell John what it says. They head up to Sawyer Depot for their vacation instead of someplace... (full context)
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After spending a night with the Eastmans, John and Owen stay in the boathouse at Loveless Lake, then camp at Lake Francis. Before... (full context)
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John starts grad school, and moves into Hester’s apartment when her last roommate moves out. She... (full context)
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Owen comes home for Christmas and he tells John and Hester about his work. He and John practice the basketball shot. Owen, John, and... (full context)
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John says he wants to keep being a student, and become a teacher. Owen says he... (full context)
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John gets told to report to his pre-induction physical. He calls Owen, who tells him not... (full context)
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Owen says that the safest thing to do is to remove John’s trigger finger, and John agrees. John is terrified, however, as Owen shows him how to... (full context)
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Owen tells John to scrub his hand and rub it with alcohol, and they’ll be at the hospital... (full context)
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John puts his finger on the chopping block, and Owen puts on his safety goggles. He... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Shot
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John feels sick whenever anyone today reminisces positively about the sixties. He thinks that there was... (full context)
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John’s students are impressed that he’s related to Hester, and they always ask him for tickets... (full context)
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...with anyone else. She only sleeps with younger guys who don’t expect anything from her. John thinks that Hester’s music videos are quite ugly, with electric bass distorting her voice and... (full context)
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John thinks Owen would have scoffed at Hester’s music videos. Hester wears lots of crucifixes—she likes... (full context)
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...seniors’ home. Dan says that her preserved jellies are still in the secret passageway, and John goes to see them for himself. He can’t find the light switch, and then Dan... (full context)
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John is saved from falling to his death by “a small, strong hand” that guides his... (full context)
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The summer of 1967, John’s finger was healing. Owen was promoted to first lieutenant. He helped John start his Master’s... (full context)
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Back in the present, it’s August and John is visiting Dan in Gravesend. Harriet left her house to Dan and John when she... (full context)
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“There is too much forgetting,” John thinks. He tried to forget who his father could be, only once calling Mr. McSwiney,... (full context)
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...someone who has been both filled with faith and filled with doubt, as compared to John who hasn’t lost his newfound faith yet. He also says that miracles shouldn’t cause faith;... (full context)
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One day in the present August vacation, John lies down on the couch where Hester once laid down while John, Noah and Simon... (full context)
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In the present, it’s September—time to go back to school. At a staff meeting, John again requested to teach Günter Grass’s book Cat and Mouse to his Grade 13 girls,... (full context)
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Hester and John attend an anti-war march in Washington fifty-thousand people strong. She questions why Owen didn’t also... (full context)
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...Wiggin, a supporter of the war, wanted to hold the funeral in his church, but John convinced the Meanys to hold the service in Hurd’s Church, with Rev. Merrill. Mr. Meany... (full context)
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...King, Jr. had been assassinated and Hair had opened on Broadway within the same month. John is sick of people who pretend to be radical but stand by as tragedy and... (full context)
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...was never there—he looked for it in Owen’s room for years, and never found it. John unpacks Owen’s duffel bag for his family. Inside is Owen’s diary, his copy of St.... (full context)
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Mrs. Meany continues to order Mr. Meany to stop talking, and John thinks that she’s perfectly crazy—possibly even mentally disabled. She might not have known what sex... (full context)
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John thinks that he could kill Mr. Meany and Mrs. Meany for their ignorance. He thinks... (full context)
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...to the war in 1968, and Owen didn’t try very hard to reconcile with her. John believes Owen wanted Hester to fall out of love with him before he died. In... (full context)
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Rev. Merrill agrees with John that Mr. Meany is a “monster of superstition” and Mrs. Meany is likely mentally disabled,... (full context)
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...was picked by God. Merrill only believes that Owen was gifted with some “precognitive powers.” John is angry that Merrill would treat Owen like an intellectual problem rather than acknowledging that... (full context)
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John thinks that Merrill treats religion like a career, preaching without believing or opening his heart... (full context)
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This was the first time Owen spoke to John from the beyond, the second being when he saved John in the secret passageway this... (full context)
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...him when he asked for Tabitha to die, and has not listened to him since. John thinks that Merrill is no different from Mr. Meany and Mrs. Meany—they all used self-centered... (full context)
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...and confirm that she was not doing anything dishonorable by singing at the supper club. John says it was a sincere affair—Merrill sincerely believed he was in love with Tabitha, who... (full context)
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John finds his father to be an utter failure. He says sarcastically to Merrill, “How I... (full context)
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Back in Toronto in September, John thinks about how Katherine says the most un-Christian thing about him is his unwillingness to... (full context)
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After John learns about Merrill, he doesn’t know what to tell Dan. He asks Dan why he... (full context)
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Dan says he doesn’t believe that John’s father was jealously trying to derail their marriage—he truly wanted Tabitha to be sure about... (full context)
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John drives to Owen’s house and picks up his mother’s dummy, still wearing her red dress.... (full context)
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...He covers his eyes with his hands and slumps to the ground, babbling to himself. John retrieves the dummy and the baseball and drives to Rye Harbor, where he used to... (full context)
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John watches the sun rise over the harbor, and then returns to Hester’s apartment to shower... (full context)
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...the stage of The Great Hall, and sat behind Merrill’s desk. He knew then who John’s father was, but he knew that God would tell John himself—and he knew that John... (full context)
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John packs the diary with the rest of his things and heads to Harriet’s house to... (full context)
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...favorite professor of Military Science from the University of New Hampshire is there; he tells John that they were clearly wrong about Owen’s suitability for combat. (full context)
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Sunlight shines through the new hole in the stained-glass windows made by John’s baseball, reflecting against the medal pinned to the flag on Owen’s casket. Mr. Meany and... (full context)
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Mrs. Walker is there, and Arthur and Amanda Downing. Larry O’Day and his daughter Caroline, John’s former girlfriend, are there, with Maureen Early. Mr. Morrison is there. Randy White’s replacement as... (full context)
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...they can still hear the children nearby playing baseball. Merrill prays over Owen’s grave, and John listens with careful attention, knowing that he is listening to his father for the last... (full context)
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As John is leaving the cemetery, a woman with three children approaches him. At first he doesn’t... (full context)
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John crosses the border to Canada, showing his missing finger when he’s asked if he’s a... (full context)
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John doesn’t hate Merrill, but he doesn’t care about him much. He hasn’t seen him since... (full context)
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Owen taught John to keep a diary, which is much less interesting than Owen’s own. One highlight is... (full context)
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John sees Mr. Meany still wearing Owen’s medal, which survived when the flag burned. He thinks... (full context)
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On the 4th of July in 1968, John sits on the porch of Harriet’s house, waiting for the parade. He will go to... (full context)
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John thinks it’s a long way to go for a few days, but he agrees to... (full context)
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John waits for Owen’s plane with the family of the fallen soldier. An Army officer is... (full context)
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...but now he doesn’t like not knowing: “GOD IS TESTING ME.” He doesn’t understand why John is still in his dream after Owen kept him out of the war. He wanted... (full context)
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...casket with a flag. A hearse takes the coffin away. The family approaches Owen, and John sees that the teenage boy is dressed in jungle fatigues and wearing a cartridge belt... (full context)
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In the major’s car, John and Owen can finally greet each other. The major, whose name is Rawls, explains that... (full context)
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Rawls offers to find John and Owen dates or show them where to buy porn while they’re in town, but... (full context)
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Owen, John, and Rawls head to the family’s ongoing wake, which Rawls treats like a spectacle. Unexpectedly,... (full context)
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...a simplistic, antagonistic mindset: “THEY’RE SO SURE THEY’RE RIGHT! THAT’S PRETTY SCARY.” He doesn’t tell John that he thinks he’s going to die tomorrow. When John asks what they should do... (full context)
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Rawls drives John and Owen to the airport in the morning. He waits with them for their flights,... (full context)
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...help take the boys to the bathroom. He says he’d be happy to help, and John shows them to the temporary men’s room. The anxious children stop crying, captivated by the... (full context)
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...child like them—makes the children trust Owen. He tells them to lie down. He tells John they have four seconds. Dick throws the grenade at John, who catches it and passes... (full context)
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The cement window ledge protects John and the children from the grenade fragments. Only their eardrums are hurt. Owen lands in... (full context)
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...saying, “I’M AWFULLY COLD…CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING?” Then Owen smiles again, and looks only at John. “YOU’RE GETTING SMALLER, BUT I CAN STILL SEE YOU!” Those are his last words. (full context)
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“I am always saying prayers for Owen Meany,” John says. He thinks about how he would have answered Mary Beth in the cemetery, if... (full context)