- Fizzy Thoughts: Owen Meany discussion

Owen Meany discussion

Monday, August 03, 2009

A group of us are reading and discussing A Prayer for Owen Meany…see Care’s post for all of the details.  Despite a rocky start, I haven’t given up and I’m almost through with the book.  I won’t go so far as to say it’s going to be a favorite, but I can certainly understand why others might feel that way.  Honestly, it’s got way too much symbolism and foreshadowing and Deep Meaning going on for me to truly love it.  I like my books a bit simpler, thank you very much.

So today I’m responsible for leading the discussion about Chapter 7, The Dream.  Owen’s dream is hinted at throughout the book, but we still don’t know the details of it.  However, in Chapter 7, Owen’s life takes a turn that seems to ensure he is on track with his dream, and his perceived destiny.

I actually found part of Chapter 7 funny.  The scene with Dr. Dolder’s VW Beetle was a bit unexpected, and quite amusing.  This was actually the first time I was engrossed in the book.  How about you?  What did you think of the scene? Were you surprised by Owen’s actions?  Did it seem in keeping with his character?

Speaking of Owen’s character, he’s very accepting of his fate.  On page 326, he states:

”THE THIRD THING I KNOW IS THAT I AM GOD’S INSTRUMENT; I HAVE FAITH THAT GOD WILL LET ME KNOW WHY I’M SUPPOSED TO DO, AND WHEN I’M SUPPOSED TO DO IT.”

Johnny, on the other hand, struggles with Owen’s fatalism.  What is your stance on fate?  Do you think we determine or our fate, or is it predetermined?  And, what do you think of Owen’s decision?  Would you be an Owen?  Or a Johnny?

Chapter 7 also features a lot of grown-up Johnny, with his rants on Reagan and US politics (and girl-barbers…did any one else find that odd?).  At one point, Johnny seems angry with the reader for not remembering Melvin Laird, or Gen. Creighton Abrams or Gen. William Westmoreland.  What do you make of Johnny’s rants?  Personally, I find myself skimming some of them.

A Prayer for Owen Meany has been challenged, due to it’s opinions on the Vietnam War, and religion.  When I first heard that, I was surprised, because I find the book to be very religious.  However, (and I’ll confess I’m on chapter 9, and that is factoring into this question) there are some parts that I suppose could be considered blasphemous (if that is even the right word).  Not that I’m advocating book banning, but it did make me think about parts of the book that are surprising or even shocking, such as Hester the Molester.  Are there any parts that have surprised you, or made you uncomfortable?

And finally, one last personal comment.  I don’t think I’ll ever look at all caps again without hearing Owen’s voice in my head…which I’m visualizing (or whatever the auditory equivalent of that word is) as an odd combination of a drill sergeant sounding like he’s being strangled.

7 comment(s):

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm with you - I don't want "symbolism and foreshadowing and Deep Meaning" in books OR movies. And dreams - HATE them - I never can figure out what's going on. Leave my brain alone, and entertain me, is my motto!

I like the "drill sergeant sounding like he’s being strangled" - didn't anyone teach the author it is impolite to use all caps these days?!!!

Ali said...

Can't help thinking of The Wizard of Oz. "Symbolism and foreshadowing and Meaning--oh my!"

I'm definitely a Johnny when it comes to the idea of fate, and Owen's insistence on it would have driven me nuts. I'm not sure if I'm at the end of Chapter 7 yet, but 6 and 7 are where I've started feeling like I'm reading an actual story with a plot. I like that in a book.

The rants about Reagan were very timely when the book was written and so they make the book seem dated, now. But other than that I've enjoyed them, because of the way he contrasts that scandal with those of the 60s and 70s. I found it historically interesting.

Care said...

I, too, find it historically interesting! and maybe because I do remember the Reagan years but not the 60s/70s political climate. Old Johnny just seems so very angry and sad and perhaps all his frustration with the 'current' events is a delusional attempt to distract himself from thinking about Owen. but I'm already a week away from the book. (no, I don't recall the rant about girl barbers) Yes, very heavy on the foreshadowing; more like fore-spotlighting.

debnance said...

I loathed this book. It is more than just foreshadowing and symbolism and deep meaning....In this book, it was FORESHADOWING and SYMBOLISM and DEEP MEANING.

And it was mean. Cruel. Twists that destroy people's attempts to be loving and turn them on their head.

I do not like this book.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

This is one of my favorite books, so I'm a bit biased, but I tend to enjoy Irving's symbolism and foreshadowing and all of that stuff. And I enjoy it in general as part of the reading experience. Most of my in-real-life bookish friends also loved this book, so it's very interesting to read the other take on it from you all here. I'll be very interested to see how you feel about it when it's all over.

Jill---I feel the same way about the all caps thing. It always reminds me of Owen. For a Weekly Geeks thing earlier this year I did an imaginary interview with him, and after typing all of those caps for his imaginary responses, I just can't see them without hearing his voice screeching at me.

Ti said...

I read this ages ago and don't remember too much but I can say that I am a Johnny and DEFINITELY not an Owen. Did those caps make you think Owen again?

Brad'll Do It said...

So, my take on fate? I think of the existentialist priest, who had to be post-ordained... ("I made that up, and am proud of it, unless I'm not," he said existentially). Or how about a new "Tom Swifty": "I hope he doesn't die from that," said Tom, fatalistically.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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