A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
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A Prayer for Owen Meany Theme of Identity

One of the biggest questions we encounter in A Prayer for Owen Meany is this one: who is John's father? John has no idea, and for the most part, neither do we. In fact, almost all of the characters seem to express curiosity at one point or another as to whom Tabby slept with back in 1942. Yet, it's not just John's father whose identity is a secret. As John tries to unravel the mystery of his background, he starts to learn that his mother wasn't exactly the person he thought she was, either.

Questions About Identity

  1. What clues do we get throughout the course of the novel that point to the identity of John's real father?
  2. What are some ways in which characters' identities are tied to specific places?
  3. Do you think Tabby ever intended to tell John the identity of his dad, or do you think she would have kept that identity a secret even when John was grown up?
  4. What are some ways in which Harriet Wheelwright goes out of her way to maintain a very specific sense of identity?
  5. How does Owen Meany see himself? How much of his identity is wrapped around being "God's Instrument"?

Chew on This

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

The characters in A Prayer for Owen Meany define their personal identities by highlighting the contrast between themselves and the people around them.

The characters in A Prayer for Owen Meany define their personal identities through their backgrounds, homes, and histories.

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