Study Guide

A Prayer for Owen Meany Friendship

By John Irving

Friendship

Chapter 2

My mother stopped the car and hugged him, and kissed him, and told him he was always welcome to come with us, anywhere we went; and I rather awkwardly put my arm around him, and we just sat that way in the car, until he had composed himself sufficiently for his return to 80 Front Street, where he marched in the back door, past Lydia's room and the maids fussing in the kitchen, up the back stairs past the maids' rooms, to my room and my bathroom, where he closed himself in and drew a deep bath. He handed me his sodden clothes, and I brought the clothes to the maids, who began their work on them. (2.423)

It's kind of nice to know you have a good friend who is supportive of you all the time, even when you pee all over yourself.

Owen Meany

It was Owen Meany who kept me out of Vietnam—a trick that only Owen could have managed.

"JUST THINK OF THIS AS MY LITTLE GIFT TO YOU"—that was how he put it.

It makes me ashamed to remember that I was angry with him for taking my armadillo's claws. God knows, Owen gave me more than he ever took from me—even when you consider that he took my mother. (2.509-511)

There are many things for which John could be angry with Owen. Still, that's part of friendship – people are imperfect and do things to hurt one another without meaning to. But friends can also do amazing things for one another. In this case, Owen keeps John out of Vietnam. We don't know what would have happened to John if he had gone into the army, but perhaps Owen indirectly saves John's life by cutting off his trigger finger.

Dan Needham

"The main thing is, Johnny," Dan Needham said, "you have to show Owen that you love him enough to trust anything with him—to not care if you do or don't get it back. It's got to be something he knows you want back. That's what makes it special." (2.451)

Dan's friendship and guidance is a key force in helping John and Owen to keep their friendship intact. Dan shows John how he has to be able to make certain sacrifices in order to show his best friend how much he loves him – even if it means giving up his stuffed armadillo.

John Wheelwright

Dan understood that I loved Owen, and that I wanted to talk with him—most of all—but that it was a conversation, for both Owen's sake and mine, that was best to delay. But before we finished loading the baseball cards in the car, Dan Needham asked me, "What are you giving him?"

"What?" I said.

"To show him that you love him," Dan Needham said. "That's what he was showing you. What have you got to give him?" (2.447-449)

John and Owen's exchange of gifts might seem like a trivial or overly sentimental scene in the novel, but it is a key moment in their friendship. Owen has just killed John's mother without meaning to. Rather than expressing his regret in words, Owen does it through actions: he gives John his baseball card collection, his most prized possession. What's striking here is that most of us would have an impossible time trying to forgive Owen – we mean, could you look at your best friend the same way if he or she killed your mother? This moment is a testament to the strength of the bond between these two friends.

Chapter 5

It is amazing to me, now, how such wild imaginings and philosophies—inspired by a night charged with frights and calamities—made such perfectly good sense to Owen Meany and me; but good friends are nothing to each other if they are not supportive. (5.380)

John and Owen have unique – and often embarrassing – worries and preoccupations. The great thing is that they have each other to voice their concerns to, no matter how weird they are.

John Wheelwright

"Was there a date on the gravestone?" I asked him. He gave himself away by hesitating.

"NO," he said.

"What was the date, Owen?" I asked him. He hesitated again.

"THERE WAS NO DATE," Owen said. I wanted to cry—not because I believed a single thing about his stupid "vision," but because it was the first time he had lied to me. (5.394-397)

This moment is incredibly moving, isn't it? On one hand, John's devastated that Owen is keeping secrets from him. On the other hand, this moment shows us how much Owen really cares about John – he isn't trying to hurt John; he's trying to protect him. Still, we can totally see where John's coming from – we'd be pretty irked if our best friends were obviously keeping secrets from us, too.

Chapter 6
Owen Meany

Dan and my grandmother were quite touched by Owen's loyalty to me; Hester, naturally, denounced Owen's behavior as "queer"; naturally, I loved him, and I thanked him for his sacrifice—but in my heart I resented his power over me.

"DON'T GIVE IT ANOTHER THOUGHT," he said. "WE'RE PALS, AREN'T WE? WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? I'LL NEVER LEAVE YOU." (6.63-64)

Owen really goes above and beyond for his best friend. He even offers to repeat the ninth grade to ensure that they'll always be together. We've got to admit, we don't know if <em>we'd</em> ever go that far….

Chapter 8

Hearing about him made me even miss practicing that stupid shot; and so I wrote to him, just casually—since when would a twenty-year-old actually come out and say he missed his best friend? (8.88)

In some ways, it seems that John and Owen navigate their relationship in a different way as twenty-somethings than as kids. They used to be able to share anything; all of a sudden, it seems like social rules start to come into conflict with their closeness.

Chapter 9
John Wheelwright

But there was no doubt that Owen had his heart set on my meeting him in Phoenix, and he sounded even more agitated than usual. I thought he might need the company; we hadn't seen each other since Christmas. After all, I'd never been to Arizona—and, I admit, at the time I was curious to see something of the so-called body escorting. It didn't occur to me that July was not the best season to be in Phoenix—but what did I know?

"Sure, let's do it—it sounds like fun," I told him.

"YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND," said Owen Meany—his voice breaking a little. I assumed it was the telephone; I thought we had a bad connection. (9.444-446)

Did your heart break while reading this passage? Ours did. Owen knows that he's going to die soon, but he doesn't tell John – he keeps it a secret until the very end. We can see from Owen's perspective how important it is for John to be there with him when it happens – not just because John's a part of his vision, but also because he loves him so much.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...