Study Guide

Owen Dunne in The Art of Fielding

By Chad Harbach

Owen Dunne

The Big O

Don't get it twisted, Shmoopers, Owen Dunne is not one of those tortured gay athletes hiding in his gym locker. He introduces himself to Henry by saying, "I'll be your gay mulatto roommate" (2.72). Then, he introduces himself to the baseball team by saying, "I trust you don't object to having a gay man on your team" (4.74). He also uses words and phrases like "Verily" (5.32) and "We exhort you" (5.34) with complete seriousness. Plus, at the beginning of the book, Owen has a boyfriend, Jason Gomes. We're told Owen writes plays and studies drama, but we never see him actually do any of that. He seems to have a busy social life, yet the only people who visit him in the hospital are the baseball team, his mom, and Guert.

Owen talks and talks and talks about himself and never asks Henry any questions. He buys Henry clothes without asking what he wants, and only from a place where he "would never shop" (3.32) and to which he has a gift card. He has a BlackBerry (a strike against him) and "sigh[s], as if Henry were an annoying child" (2.85) when he first starts talking to him. And, for some reason, watching Henry stir powder into a glass of milk is the grossest thing he's ever seen. Maybe he's lactose intolerant?

All drink preparation aside, at some point, Owen and Jason break up—although we're never told how or why or when—and he and Guert Affenlight, the 60-year-old college president, become an item. Owen is very blasé about the whole thing, to the point where it's difficult to tell if Owen actually cares for Guert, if he's just bored with Guert, or if Owen is the type of person who is just bored with life. Is he a soulless statue, or is there something underneath all the affectations he's taken on to create a personality?

Maybe it's his semi-Buddhist nature. He's even called "the Buddha" by his teammates without any explanation. Maybe it's his "childlike belly" (30.2), despite being described as "slender" (27.6) three chapters earlier. Perhaps it's a magic belly.

And perhaps being laid back is the way to be. Owen is the only character who doesn't get worked up about anything. It might be because he's perpetually stoned, but while Guert frets over his sexuality, Henry worries about his perfection, Mike sweats his imperfections, and Pella agonizes over the dishes, Owen doesn't give two squats about anything. And this is the guy who gets hit by a baseball and almost dies. Henry can't get over this, but Owen recovers. His 60-year-old lover dies, so he gets quiet and sits out one baseball game. And then, the dude moves on. That's called fortitude, gang. Owen is the only one who seems to be going anywhere.