Quoted passages from “A Prayer For Owen Meany” by John Irving

By dancingintheraine

February 12, 2012

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“But Owen Meany’s manner of making and keeping a thing mysterious was to allude to something too dark and terrible to mention.  He was changing churches, he said, TO ESCAPE THE CATHOLICS—or, actually, it was his father who was escaping and defying the Catholics by sending Owen to Sunday school, to be confirmed, in the Episcopal Church.  When Congregationalists turned into Episcopalians, Owen told me, there was nothing to it; it simply represented a move upward in church formality—in HOCUS POCUS, Owen called it.  But for Catholics to move to the Episcopal Church was not only a move away from the hocus-pocus; it was a move that risked eternal damnation.” (Pg. 30, para. 5)


“Not only did Catholics kneel and mutter litanies and creeds without ceasing, but they ritualized any hope of contact with God to such an extent that Owen felt they’d interfered with his ability to pray—to talk to God DIRECTLY, as Owen put it.” (Pg. 31, para. 1)


“The Soviets said they wouldn’t test any weapons until the U.S. tested first,” I told the canon.  “Don’t you see how deliberately provactive this is?  How arrogant!  How unconcerned with any arms agreement—of anykind!  Every American should be forced to live outside the United States for a year or two.  Americans should be forced to see how ridiculous they appear to the rest of the world!  They should listen to someone else’s version of themselves—to anyone else’s version!  Every country knows more about America than Americans know about themselves!  And Americans now absolutely nothing about any other country!” (Pg. 203, para. 7) (regarding the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the US and USSR).


An interesting notation:  page 233, third page of Chapter 6 “The Voice” had a font change.  From Times New Roman to something along the lines of Lucida.  But on the next page, 234, it returned to the original font.


“Oh, boy.  Mrs. Reagan said that the congressional hearings on the Iran-contra deals had not affected the president.  Mrs. Reagan was in Sweden to observe a drug-abuse program in a high school in a Stockholm suburb;  I guess she’s one of those many American adults of a certain advanced age who believe that the root of all evil lies in the area of young people’s self-abuse.  Someone should tell Mrs. Reagan that young people—not even young people on drugs—are not the ones responsible for the major problems besetting the world!”  (Pg., para. 8)


“It makes me sick to hear the lectures delivered to Lt. Col. Oliver North.  What are they lecturing him for?  The colonel wants to support the contras—“for the love of God and for the love of country”; he’s already testified that he’d do anything his commander-in-chief- wanted him to do.  And now we get to listen to the senators and the representatives who are running for office again; they tell the colonel all he doesn’t know about the U.S. Constitution; they point out to him that patriotism is not necessarily defined as blind devotion to a president’s particular agenda—and that to dispute a presidential policy is not necessarily anti-American.  They might add that God is not a proven right-winger!  Why are they pontificating the obvious to Colonel North?  Why don’t they have the balls to say this to their blessed commander-in-chief?”  (Pg. 339, para. 8)


(Regarding the death of Marilyn Monroe) “It has to do with all of us,” said Owen Meany, when I called him that night.  “She was just like our whole country—not quite young anymore, but not old either; a little breathless, very beautiful, maybe a little stupid, maybe a lot smarter than she seemed.  And she was looking for something—I think she wanted to be good.  Look at the men in her life—Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, maybe the Kennedys.  Look at how good they seemed!  Look at how desirable she was!  That’s what she was:  She was desirable.  She was finny and sexy—and she was vulnerable, too.  She was never quite happy, she was always a little overweight.  She was just like our country,” he repeated… “And those men,” he said.  “Those famous, powerful men—did they really love her?  Did they take care of her?  If she was ever with the Kennedys, they couldn’t have loved her—they were just using her, they were just being careless and treating themselves to a thrill.  That’s what powerful men do to this country—it’s a beautiful, sexy, breathless country, and powerful men use it to treat themselves to a thrill!  They say they love it but they don’t mean it.  They say things to make themselves appear good—they make themselves appear moral.  That’s what I thought Kennedy was: a moralist.  But he was just giving us a snow job.  He was just being a good seducer.  I thought he was a savior.  I thought he wanted to use his power to do good.  But people will say and do anything just to get the power; then they’ll use the power just to get a thrill.  Marilyn Monroe was always looking for the best man—maybe she wanted the man with the most ability to do good.  And she was seduced, over and over again—she got fooled, she was tricked, she got used, she was used up.  Just like the country.  The country wants a savior.  The country is a sucker for powerful men who look good.  We thing they’re moralists and then they just use us.  That’s what’s going to happen to you and me,” said Owen Meany.  “We’re going to be used.” (Pgs. 381-382, para. 7)


“…Oh just drop dead! He thought.
“At that precise moment, that is what he’d prayed.  Then Owen Meany hit the next pitch.  This is what a self-centered religion does to us:  it allows us to use it to further our own ends.  How could the Rev. Lewis Merrill agree with me—that Mr. and Mrs. Meany were “monsters of superstition”—if he himself believed that God had listened to his prayer at that Little League game;  and that God had not “listened” to him since?  Because he’s wished my mother dead, my father said, God had punished him; God had taught Pastor Merrill not to trifle with prayer.  And I suppose that was why it had been so difficult for Mr. Merrill to pray for Owen Meany—and why he had invited us all to offer up our silent prayers for Owen, instead of speaking out himself.  And he called Mr. and Mrs. Meany “superstitious”!  Look at the world:  look at how many of our peerless leaders presume to tell us that they know what God wants!  It’s not God who’s fucked up, it’s the screamers who say they believe in Him and who claim to pursue their dark ends in His holy name!”  (Pg. 481, para. 2)

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