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John Irving Writing Styles in A Prayer for Owen Meany

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Style

Symbols

There is a recurring motif of armlessness and amputation. It is first mentioned early in the novel, in the figure of Watahantowet, the seventeenthcentury Indian chief in John's hometown of Gravesend, whose totem was an armless man. John explains that, to some, the totem symbolized how Watahantowet felt powerless after the white settlers had taken his land. Sometimes the totem was shown with a tomahawk in its mouth, which some identified, according to John, as a sign of peace: the Indian literally would not take arms against his enemies.

Another armless symbol is the dressmaker's dummy. Since the dummy is used in the novel as a reminder of Tabitha—almost as her silent double— it perhaps also suggests powerlessness or helplessness. Tabitha is powerless to resist or alter her fate.

A third example of the symbol of armlessness is when Owen removes the statue of Mary Magdalene and...

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This section contains 1,044 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our A Prayer for Owen Meany Study Guide
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A Prayer for Owen Meany from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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