Study Guide

Hester Eastman in A Prayer for Owen Meany

By John Irving

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Hester Eastman

Hester is John's cousin and the third of the Eastman kids. She's just a kid when we first meet her – she's less than a year older than John and Owen – but even then she's especially aggressive. Hester's brand of aggression isn't just about roughhousing and getting into trouble in the way that her brothers do; instead, Hester's aggressiveness is decidedly sexual in nature. (Kind of makes you think of Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter.) As a young girl, she makes a game of pulling the boys' "doinks." As a teenager, we get the vibe that Hester has been around the block a few times. The boys tease her with the name "Hester the Molester" in response to her intense sexual energy. John is strangely attracted to her, and she knows it.

As a young woman, Hester seems to change a little bit. Sure, she still exudes the same sort of sexual energy – maybe even more so now that she's older – but she seems a bit more in control. She and Owen become an item and move in together. She seems to be fiercely loyal to him after he joins the army and is distraught by his wishes to go to Vietnam. She promises to marry him and bear his children if he promises not to go into combat. Hester will never forget Owen, and he becomes the basis for many of her songs as a rock star (she takes on Hester the Molester as her stage name – who would have thought?).

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