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A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany


by John Irving

Analysis: Writing Style


Our main man John Irving is a big fan of Charles Dickens (and heck, once you pick up a copy of Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, or David Copperfield you will be, too). We see Irving give Dickens some props by having the Gravesend Players put on a yearly production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Still, that's not the only way that Irving gives a wink and a nod to Señor Dickens. The style of the novel itself can be described as Dickensian.

Charles Dickens's novels have a few trademark qualities. First of all, we'll come out and say the obvious: Dickens' novels are pretty darn long, and so is A Prayer for Owen Meany. Like Dickens' novels, Owen Meany is a sprawling, complicated, detail-heavy story. Owen Meany is also a prime example of one of Dickens' other trademarks: the novel has a cast of memorable characters, often with funny-sounding names – even the minor characters are hard to forget. Who can forget Rev. Dudley Wiggin, Buzzy Thurston or "Hester the Molester"? We don't just remember them because of their names, though; we remember them because Irving spends the time to create vivid portraits of each of them. Dickens's work is also often a tad on the sentimental side, but simultaneously provides strong social commentary. Likewise, A Prayer for Owen Meany is alternately comic and heartbreaking, and it also investigates some of the biggest social and political concerns that faced the Baby Boom generation.

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