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A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving - Literary Criticism Essay


briebanks 1 / -  
Jun 14, 2012   #1
Hi there,
I am writing an essay for a grade 12 university level English class based on the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. We were given a list of different literary criticisms (Moral Criticism, Feminist Criticism, Marxist Criticism - to name a few) along with information as well as typical questions that are asked when writing essays based on each criticism. I have chosen to write my essay through the Psychoanalytic Criticism lense and chose the prompting question: How can characters' behaviour, narrative events, and/or images be explained in terms of psychoanalytic concepts of any kind? I have not began writing the essay but I would just like some opinions on the thesis and arguments that I have formulated. Please let me know if I have missed any major points that could be used to support my arguments or anything that you believe is inappropriate for my topic and/or thesis. They are as follows:

Thesis:
The psychoanalytic concepts of sexuality, fear or fascination with death, and the Oedipal Complex can be used to explain the behaviour and emotions of the three main characters in John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Arguments / Quotes :

1) Fear or Fascination with death
a. Mortality is one of the major themes in A Prayer for Owen Meany - many of the characters in the story die, and there are references to death throughout the novel.

b. After Owen sees the date that he is going to die, he becomes obsessed with his death and ensuring that he fulfills his destiny by going to war and being a hero.

c. Owen's sense of mortality guides and shapes the way he lives his life.
d. "I SAW MY NAME-ON THE GRAVE," said Owen Meany.
Dan put his arms around Owen and hugged him. "Owen, Owen-it's part of the story! You're sick, you have a fever! You're too excited. Seeing a name on that grave is just like the story-it's make-believe, Owen," Dan said.

"IT WAS MY NAME," Owen said. "NOT SCROOGE'S."
e. "Owen felt that God had assigned him a role that he was powerless to change; Owen's sense of his own destiny - his belief that he was on a mission - robbed him of his capacity for fun." pg.420

2) Sexuality
a. Sex is something that seems to be on almost all of the character's minds throughout the novel.
b. Although we assume Owen and Hester are sleeping together, we can only speculate. Owen's views on sex remain tame throughout his life, whereas after Owen's death, Hester begins to blatantly flaunt her promiscuity - calling herself Hester the Molester.

c. John remains a virgin for life - he struggles to find a girl willing to have sex with him during high school and college, then eventually accepts the fact that he will never have sex.

d. When John and Owen are teenagers, they are exposed to sex in a variety of ways - Owen getting an erection from Barb Wiggin, and John getting one from Germaine; Owen hiding under the bed and John hiding in the closet when Mr. and Mrs. Brinker-Smith have sex in the dorm room; the boys' fascination with the condom, or "beetleskin", as they call it; and their interest in Hester.

e. John's interest in Hester?

3) Oedipal Complex
a. The Oedipus complex describes the feelings of desire that a boy feels towards his mother and the feelings of jealousy and anger towards his father.

b. In this novel, the Oedipus complex is not applied to John and his father, but to John and Owen.
c. Owen gets to spend extra time with John's mother - when he is frightened by the "angel of death", when he needs a ride home on the day of Tabby and Dan's wedding, and even when he takes home the dressmaker's dummy after Tabby's death

Thank you so much!

elizkarimian 1 / 2  
Jun 14, 2012   #2
Maybe you can elaborate more on the oedipal complex!

All in all it looks pretty well, and great details!


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