A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
I was little Johnny Wheelwright, father unknown, and—at the time—that was okay with me. I never complained. One day, I always thought, she would tell me about it—when I was old enough to know the story. It was, apparently, the kind of story you had to be "old enough" to hear. It wasn't until she died—without a word to me concerning who my father was—that I felt I'd been cheated out of information I had a right to know; it was only after her death that I felt the slightest anger toward her. Even if my father's identity and his story were painful to my mother—even if their relationship had been so sordid that any revelation of it would shed a continuous, unfavorable light upon both my parents—wasn't my mother being selfish not to tell my anything about my father? (1.37)
It seems like Johnny's sense of his own identity is compromised by not being able to find out who his father is. He feels cheated out of information that he feels is rightfully his.
And almost casually, with a confidence that stood in surprising and unreasonable juxtaposition to his tiny size, Owen Meany told me that he was sure my father was alive, that he was sure my father knew he was my father, and that God knew who my father was; even if my father never came forth to identify himself, Owen told me, God would identify him for me. "YOUR DAD CAN HIDE FROM YOU," Owen said, "BUT HE CAN'T HIDE FROM GOD." (1.41)
As far as Owen is concerned, Johnny's dad is out there, and figuring out his identity is a matter of time and chance. Owen's sense of Johnny's dad's identity is closely linked to his deep faith and belief in fate.
Some Wheelwrights—not only our founding father—had even been in the ministry; in the last century, the Congregational ministry. And the move upset the pastor of the Congregational Church, the Rev. Lewis Merrill; he'd baptized me, and he was woebegone at the thought of losing my mother's voice from the choir—he'd known her since she was a young girl, and (my mother always said) he'd been especially supportive of her when she'd been calmly and good-naturedly insisting on her privacy regarding my origins. (1.99)
What's significant about this passage is that we start to get the vibe that Rev. Merrill somehow has a part in the big secret of Johnny's identity. Unlike everyone else, he doesn't press Tabby for details; rather, he's more than happy to support her right to privacy.