A Prayer for Owen Meany


John Irving

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Themes and Colors
Fate and Predestination Theme Icon
Christianity and Faith Theme Icon
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Powerlessness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Prayer for Owen Meany, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Fate and Predestination

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving explores the concept of fate and predestination in the lives of his characters. The book’s narrator, John Wheelwright, describes the unusual history of his friend Owen Meany, who has a very detailed vision of his own death at a young age. Later, Owen dies exactly as he once foresaw. This incredible story raises the question of whether or not Owen’s death was truly “fated,”…

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Christianity and Faith

In the opening sentence of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator, John Wheelwright, announces that his childhood friend “is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.” Neither John nor Owen are strictly religious in the sense of belonging to one specific church or practicing careful rituals, but they profess to believe in the existence of God. However, many of their attitudes and…

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Gender and Sexuality

John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is a novel that mixes progressive statements about women’s intelligence and fortitude with a relentless objectification and critique of women’s bodies. Through its frequent references to literary works such as The Scarlet Letter that grapple with gender (and the fact that A Prayer for Owen Meany is itself a literary work), the book highlights the role literature plays in shaping and perpetuating gender stereotypes. While the novel’s main…

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A central theme of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is powerlessness—be it powerlessness in the face of fate, freak accidents, overpowering forces, or God’s will. The book follows two best friends, John Wheelwright and the titular Owen Meany, as they grapple with their own powerless throughout their lives. While powerlessness is typically thought of as synonymous with weakness, A Prayer for Owen Meany reveals how powerlessness can sometimes best position people to…

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