A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
The Ghost of the Future
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
For many people, Charles Dickens's novel A Christmas Carol and the various movie and TV productions that have been made over the years are as big a part of Christmas as Santa Claus and mistletoe. Likewise, A Christmas Carol is a huge part of the way that the Gravesend community celebrates Christmas, and the Gravesend Players' dramatic production of A Christmas Carol is a central episode in A Prayer for Owen Meany.
In the novel, Owen gets to play the part of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. If you've ever read Dickens's novel or seen one of the many movie adaptations, you know that this ghost is the scariest one of them all. He is the one who shows Ebenezer Scrooge that he's going to die. Well, Owen's portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the scariest one that the Gravesend community has ever seen; it's so scary, in fact, that Maureen Early pees her pants (peeing in one's pants, by the way, also seems to be a big trend in this novel – but we digress). Still, when John tells us about the play, he doesn't talk about Owen as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, which is the actual name of the character; he repeatedly refers to Owen as the Ghost of the Future (in fact, that's also the name of Chapter 5). What's up with that?
Well, for one thing, we'd like to throw it out there that Owen's predictions for the future play a huge part, not only in how the novel progresses, but also in how Owen leads his life. During the final production of the play, Owen' doesn't just predict Ebenezer Scrooge's future; he also predicts his own when he sees his name and date of death on the gravestone prop. When John calls him the Ghost of the Future from then on, it doesn't seem that he's only referring to Owen's part in the play; he's also showing us how Owen seems to have an eerie foreknowledge of what is going to happen to him later.