A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
A Prayer for Owen Meany Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"So he's a teacher?" my grandmother asked. This was borderline acceptable to Harriet Wheelwright—although my grandmother was a shrewd enough businesswoman to know that the dollars and cents of teaching (even at as prestigious a prep school as Gravesend Academy) were not exactly in her league.
"Yes!" my mother said in an exhausted voice. "He's a teacher. He's been teaching dramatics at a private school in Boston. Before that, he went to Harvard—Class of Forty-five."
"Goodness gracious!" my grandmother said. "Why didn't you begin with Harvard?"
"It's not important to him," my mother said.
But Harvard '45 was important enough to my grandmother to calm her troubled hands; they left her brooch alone, and returned to rest in her lap. (2.43-47)
Name brands are a big deal to Harriet. While she's been nervous this whole time about the kind of guy that Tabby intends to bring home, she calms down immediately when she finds out that Dan is Harvard-educated.
Grandmother was not won over quickly, as a rule—not by anyone. Yet she became infatuated with the magic Dan wrought upon the amateurs at The Gravesend Players so much that she accepted a part in Maugham's The Constant Wife; she was the regal mother of the deceived wife, and she proved to have the perfect, frivolous touch for drawing-room comedy—she was a model of the kind of sophistication we could all do well without. She even discovered a British accent, with no prodding from Dan, who was no fool and fully realized that a British accent lay never very deeply concealed in the bosom of Harriet Wheelwright—it simply wanted an occasion to bring it out. (3.129)
What is it with British accents being associated with all things high-class? We totally buy it, and we don't know why!
Dan came from a very high-powered family; they were doctors and lawyers, and they disapproved of Dan for not completing a more serious education. To have started out at Harvard and not gone on to law school, not gone on to medical school—this was criminal laziness; Dan came from a family very keen about going on. They disapproved of him ending up as a mere prep-school teacher, and of his indulging his hobby of amateur theatrical performances—they believed these frivolities were unworthy of a grown-up's interest! They disapproved of my mother, too—and that was the end of Dan having any more to do with them. (3.119)
Dan's family seems to have a lot in common with Harriet Wheelwright – they put a premium on good breeding, high levels of fancy education, and lucrative and prestigious jobs. Dan, like Tabby, seems to have broken the mold – he follows his own interests and dreams instead.