2 A Review of Christ-like Character Traits Crucified, wounds in the hands, feet, side, headIn agony (physical or mental)Self-sacrificingGood with ChildrenGood with loaves of bread, fish, water, wine33 years old when last seenEmployed as a carpenter or fishermanKnown to use humble transportationBelieved to have walked on waterOften portrayed with arms outstretched
3 Known to have spent time alone in the wilderness Known to have a confrontation with the devil, possibly temptedLast seen in the company of thievesCreator of many aphorismsBuried, rose on 3rd dayHad disciples, 12 at first, not equally devotedVery forgivingCame to redeem an unworthy world
4 Think About how many of those characteristics could be applied to Owen.
5 A Chapter Review Chapter One This chapter sets up a lot of the background for Johnny’s and Owen’s families.It’s also the chapter where Owen, albeit accidentally, kills Johnny’s mother, Tabitha.Remember that Owen is not part of Upper Crust Gravesend. This shapes how others view himRemember that he asserts that he is NOT Gravesend Academy materialThe baseball disappears. Who would want it?
6 Chapter TwoFlashback to before Tabby’s death; end of chapter is after her deathThe cousins are introduced. Why?The armadillo – Dan’s present, think about what it possibly represents.The red dress – VERY symbolic. The color red – what could it represent? What other novels have used this color?
7 Chapter ThreeThe Angel – protective or ominous – “wailing like a banshee”The Dummy – the mirror image of Tabby. Why does Owen take it? Could there be more to this?Hester – what is her role in the relationship between Johnny and Owen.
8 Chapter FourFirst Christmas after Tabby’s death – contrast with all the previous onesOwen’s power in the Christmas Pageant – why does anyone listen to this child?How did NOT being able go to Sawyer Depot affect Owen?The reaction of Owen’s parents to finding out that he had the role of Jesus.
9 Chapter FiveJesus not the only role for Owen – takes over Morrison’s spot as The Ghost of Christmas FutureLydia’s death foreshadowed by OwenOwen sees his own future – Scrooge’s graveFirst lie to JohnnyBanishment of parents – WHY???
10 Chapter SixOwen and Johnny start their Gravesend Academy life, just as Tabby had wanted.Owen quickly establishes himself – THE VOICE – think of how much power this gave Owen.Randy White – an antagonist for Owen. How does this shake things up?Consider JFK and his effect on Owen. What about him appeals to Owen? How does this help characterize Owen?Reverend Merrill changes jobs. How does this happen? How does this proximity to Merrill perhaps contribute to later events?
11 Chapter SevenTabby’s secrets are revealed. How? Would this have happened if the boys were not attending Gravesend Academy?Owen’s disillusionment with Kennedy. How does this affect him?The Mitzi Lish proposition – what does this say about Owen? How does his reaction characterize him?The title becomes relevant.Mary Magdalene – Owen’s retribution. Why does he do this?Why does Owen decide to attend U of NH instead of the other two?
12 Chapter 8Death of Marilyn Monroe – how does this affect Owen? His analogy of Marilyn = America.Basic training – physical obstacle for OwenConsider the trip to Sawyer Depot and Owen’s remark about Canada.Replacement statue – why the extreme effort?Owen wants to go to Vietnam. Can’t.Owen’s “little gift to Johnny.” In what ways does this affect Johnny?
13 Chapter NineWe learn the secret of THE UNSUFFERABLE OUTRAGE. What do Owen’s parents believe? How did the Church react to this?We find out who the baby’s daddy is. Why is this so infuriating to Johnny? How does he react? WHY?How do important items from earlier in the book come back into play?Owen’s funeral – why is this before his death?How does Owen’s dream play out?ARMLESSNESS – review all of the occasionsDick – a psycho. Remember how Harriet wanted to die? BTW, how did she? How is that ironic.
14 DOUBT, FAITH, and FAITHDoubt is faith’s and our greatest asset. John seems to represent true doubt, rivaled only by his father, Reverend Merrill.Faith can be based on many things, ignorance among them being the worst.Prime example: Owen’s parents believing that he was the Virgin Birth, and irrevocably shaping his whole life by telling him when he was 10 (Very impressionable age). Is this why they didn’t celebrate Christmas? Is this why baby Jesus is missing from their nativity set?The “miracle” staged by John. Reverend Merrill’s restored faith based on malarkey. Irony.Doubt is better than faith based on false assumptions.To be a watcher is to gain wisdom (Johnny)Is faith inspired or created in one’s own mind?
15 A Revisit to Those Opening Quotes “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.” What would Owen say about this?“Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine…” Is this novel really an exploration of doubt?“Any Christian who is not a hero is a pig.” Well, could this be referring to Owen?
16 Thoughts to Ponder Instrument – being God’s instrument or not Armlessness – this motif cannot be ignored. Look how it is woven throughout text.Johnny’s name – hmmm – any hint of autobiography?Where Owen’s death actually occurs – despite all he KNEW, he didn’t know everything.Reoccurring war theme WITHOUT going to Vietnam.Why did Tabby look in that last minute? Why not until then?Look at opposing aspects of Hester’s personality – her early sexuality and her intense loyalty to Owen.
17 Look at how the story is developed Look at how the story is developed. Johnny remembers everything in stages. Is this the way a mind remembers something particularly traumatic?Irving’s tone. Detached. Why? Why are the feelings of the character’s left out? Consider the point of view in which this novel is told? AND yes, Johnny’s Canada rants do seem to show the most emotion.The use of the anti-climax – Waiting all that time for a father who was such a disappointment. What theme could this be developing?
18 SIGNIFICANCE OF CHAPTER TITLES 1: The FOUL BALL “I make no claims to have a life in Christ, or with Christ – and certainly not for Christ, which I’ve heard some zealots claim.” page 1 “…but every study of the gods, of everyone’s gods is a revelation of vengeance toward the innocent.” page 7 Why Owen Meany? - what does Meany signify? He certainly is no meany, no bully. Gravesend – ironic name “Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things for you – and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you.” page 35.
19 The Armadillo“’You keep doing that and you’ll make yourself sterile,’ said my cousin Hester, to whom every event of our shared childhood was either sexually exhilarating or sexually damaging.” page 54.Was she predicting Johnny’s celibacy?“…Owen Meany and I were permanently conditioned to flinch at the sound of a different kind of gunshot: that much-loved and most American sound of summer, the good ol’ crack of the bat!” page 82. AUDITORY IMAGE
20 The AngelThe fact that there are good and bad angels is an interesting idea.The wailing like a banshee with Grandmother is prophetic. Importance of word choice. Owen’s precision.Definite reiteration of hypocrisy in churches – think about Johnny’s description of the family attending church when none of them want to be there.
21 Little Lord Jesus The Ghost of the Future The VOICE Coincidence. “Owen believed that ‘coincidence’ was a stupid, shallow refuge by stupid, shallow people who were unable to accept the fact that their lives were shaped by a terrifying and awesome design – more powerful and unstoppable than the Flying Yankee.” page 86.The Ghost of the FutureIs there anything as scary as our future? Look at all the quotes about what Owen felt was in store for America, for all of us.The VOICEWhat does his crazy voice mean? A permanent scream? Why does one scream? Does his voice need to remain the voice of a child (the Vietnamese hons)?
22 The Dream “Rituals are comforting; rituals combat loneliness. Page 280 “…it was a ridiculous thing for him to want to do – for someone his size to set himself the challenge of soaring and reaching so high…it was just silliness, and I was tired of the mindless, repetitive choreography.” page 303.“Yet he seemed content to watch Ben Hur, and Hester throwing up; maybe that’s what faith is – exactly that contentment, even facing the future.” page 358
23 The FingerHow true is this: “The only time you can get Americans to notice anything is to tax them or draft them or kill them.” (notice the polysyndeton) “If you abolish the draft, most Americans will simply stop caring about what we’re doing in other parts of the world.” page 431Many of you have commented on the amputation of the finger. Think about this…Johnny goes into virtually no details about what followed the cutting. Was there pain? How did they explain it? What happened to the finger? Did Owen keep it? WHY?
24 The Shot“Nothing bears out in practice what it promises incipiently…he wasn’t a great thinker…he was a great feeler.” page 518How could Owen Meany have known what he “knew”? It’s no answer, of course, to believe in accidents, or in coincidences; but is God really a better answer? If God had a hand in what Owen knew, what a horrible questions that poses! For how could God have let that happen to Owen Meany! Watch out for people who call themselves religious; make sure you know what they mean – make sure they know what they mean!” pages 571-2