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A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by John Irving

Family Theme

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, family life tells us a lot about our characters (in fact, check out "Tools of Characterization: Family" for more). We learn a whole lot about the Wheelwrights and the Eastmans, who make up John's family. There's one big part of John's family life that is noticeably missing: he doesn't know who his dad is. Still, we see how friends and non-blood relatives can become more like family than the people to whom one is related. Dan Needham, John's stepdad, is the best dad a boy could ever ask for. Owen and John are so close that they could be brothers. In fact, we get the vibe that Owen is closer to the Wheelwrights than he is to his own family. Owen has a weird relationship with his parents that we don't really understand until the end of the novel. He comes and goes as he pleases, and they seem to not really care about what he does.

Questions About Family

  1. What examples of non-traditional fatherhood do we see in A Prayer for Owen Meany?
  2. In what ways is Owen more a part of the Wheelwright family than the Meany family? Provide examples.
  3. Why do you think Tabby never reveals the identity of Johnny's father to her own family?
  4. Do you think Tabby ever intended to tell Johnny about who his father is? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, bonds of friendship are just as important as bonds of family.

A Prayer for Owen Meany demonstrates the ways in which families deceive each other to protect one another.

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