A Prayer for Owen Meany
How we cite our quotes:
Hester just missed the Eastman good looks. It was an especially masculine good looks that Noah and Simon got from my Uncle Alfred—broad shoulders, big bones, a heavy jaw—and from my Aunt Martha the boys got their blondness, and their aristocracy. But the broad shoulders, the big bones, and the heavy jaw—these were less attractive on Hester, who did not receive either my aunt's blondness or her aristocracy. Hester was as dark and hairy as Uncle Alfred—even including his bushy eyebrows, which were actually one solid eyebrow without a gap above the bridge of the nose—and she had Uncle Alfred's big hands. Hester's hands looked like paws. (2.290)
Hester is described as being fairly rough – sort of masculine and almost animal-like. What's interesting here is that all of the details we get in this passage – big bones, a heavy jaw, and paw-like hands – seem to emphasize on the outside what we understand about Hester inside: she's fairly aggressive and tough. This seems to be a case of outward looks "matching" inward personality traits.
When I returned with the water and the aspirin, my mother had fallen asleep with her arm around Owen; with his protrusive ears spread on the pillow, and my mother's arm across his chest, he looked like a butterfly trapped by a cat. He managed to take the aspirin and drink the water without disturbing my mother, and he handed the glass back to me with a stoical expression.
"I'M GOING TO STAY HERE," he said bravely, "IN CASE IT COMES BACK."
He looked so absurd, I couldn't look at him. (3.60-62)
Owen is usually pretty funny-looking, but he seems especially ridiculous to John in this situation. It's not just that his appearance is absurd to John, his actions are also bizarre.
And Pastor Merrill was also good-looking—in an intense, pale, slightly undernourished way. He had a boyish face—a sudden, winning, embarrassed smile that contradicted a fairly constant look of worry that more usually gave him the expression of an anxious child. An errant lock of hair flopped on his forehead when he looked down upon his sermon, or bent over his Bible—his hair problem was the unruly result of a pronounced widow's peak, which further contributed to his boyishness. (3.132)
John Irving does a great job of creating characters whose outward looks emphasize their personality traits. We know Pastor Merrill as someone who seems to be plagued by self-doubt as well as religious doubt. Well, that's what's inside, but on the outside, he seems similarly young and unsure of himself (though he does have that "winning" smile. How dreamy…)