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A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany

by John Irving

Identity Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

"YOUR FATHER IS NOT THE SINGING TEACHER," Owen Meany told me matter-of-factly. "THAT WOULD BE TOO OBVIOUS."

"This is a real-life story, Owen," I said. "It's not a mystery novel." In real life, I meant, there was nothing written that the missing father couldn't be OBVIOUS—but I didn't really think it was the singing teacher, either. He was only the most likely candidate because he was the only candidate my grandmother and I could think of.

"IF IT'S HIM, WHY MAKE IT A SECRET?" Owen asked. "IF IT'S HIM, WOULDN'T YOUR MOTHER SEE HIM MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK—OR NOT AT ALL?" (3.113-115)

Here we see that the secret identity of Johnny's father brings out the sleuth in Owen.  To him, it's like a real-life mystery novel.

Quote #8

"What a waste, Tabby!" Aunt Martha would say. "It's an absolute waste of your memory—knowing all those words to the verses no one ever sings!"

"What else do I need my memory for?" my mother asked her sister; the two women would smile at each other—my Aunt Martha coveting that part of my mother's memory that might tell her the story of who my father was. (5.252-253)

Isn't it funny how Tabby seems to tease Aunt Martha so deliberately about the identity of Johnny's dad?  Martha's interest in his identity also reveals some interesting aspects of her relationship with Tabby – Tabby seems to be totally aware of the game that her sister is playing with her, and she plays right along.

Quote #9

With a shudder, I imagined that it had been my father in the bleachers—it had been my father she'd waved to the instant she was killed! With no idea how I might hope to recognize him, I began with the front row, left-center; I went through the audience, face by face. From my perspective, backstage, the faces in the audience were almost uniformly still, and the attention upon them was not directed toward me; the faces were, at least in part, strangers to me, and—especially in the back rows—smaller than the faces on baseball cards. (5.226)

John's interest in figuring out his dad's identity is this weird mix of a game and a serious investigation.

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