A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
Reverend Lewis Merrill
Rev. Lewis Merrill is the pastor of the Congregational Church in Gravesend. When we first meet him, we sort of feel like he's just another face in the crowd – yet another stock character who's there to give us a little bit of local flavor. There's more to this man, though, than first meets the eye. In fact, there are a couple of pretty interesting things that stick out about Rev. Merrill.
First, the way he speaks is pretty unique. Sometimes Rev. Merrill speaks with the most painful stutter – he can barely get a word out. Other times, he speaks smoothly and confidently. We start to learn that Rev. Merrill stutters whenever he feels doubtful or anxious, and so in the moments in which he stutters we get a clue that something's up that he's not telling us about.
The other characteristic that we notice coming up over and over is that he seems to take particular notice of Tabby and John when they're around. As a kid, John seems to be especially aware of the way that Rev. Merrill looks at him. It's only later that we find out that Rev. Merrill has a bit of a Scarlet Letter past and is actually John's father – no wonder he looks at John that way!
Rev. Merrill's relationship with his faith is a really important part of his character as well. Owen is quick to criticize Rev. Merrill for openly talking about his religious doubts – as someone who is supposed to lead a whole congregation of believers, it's a little off-putting that he isn't more firm in his beliefs. On the flip side, John finds Rev. Merrill's uncertain faith to be comforting; as far as he's concerned, nobody except Owen and Rev. Wiggin are totally sure about God. We find out that Rev. Merrill wasn't always so full of doubt; he was a firm believer in God until the day that Tabby died. While Rev. Merrill might seem at first to be a little bit on the vanilla side of things, he is actually one of the most complex characters of the novel.