A Prayer for Owen Meany

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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving through a Jungian Archetypal Lens

Carl Jung was a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist who developed many theories concerning the unconscious mind. Jung’s theories state that the unconscious part of a human’s psyche has two different layers, the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious is unique to every individual; however, the collective unconscious “is inborn.” (Carl Jung, Four Archetypes, 3) The collective unconscious is present in everyone’s psyche, and it contains archetypes which are “those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted to conscious elaboration” (Jung, Archetypes, 5); they are templates of thought that have been inherited through the collective unconscious. Jung has defined many different archetypes such as the archetype of the mother, the archetype of the hero, the archetype of the shadow, etc. These Jungian archetypes are often projected by the collective unconscious onto others. If the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is examined through a Jungian archetypal lens it is possible to discern different archetypes projected by the protagonist’s unconscious self to illustrate the effects of the collective unconscious on character and plot analysis.

Tabitha Wheelwright embodies the archetype of the mother. Which shows us how with reflection, John sees her with a divine quality; he mythologizes her. Jung’s theory states that:

“Parents are early major carriers of projection, and children unconsciously project omnipotence and omniscience onto them. These are what Jung called archetypal projections. The parents become gods, invested with powers that people have attributed to the divine. ‘Daddy can do anything! He’s the str...

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...f it is not accepted first.

Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is one of the many novels that can be analysed through a Jungian archetypal lens to show how the unconscious projection of archetypal images affects how a person views others people's actions and their behaviours. In this novel the narrator John Wheelwright projects different archetypes onto different people dependant on their role in his life. This shows us how the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is not objective because as a reader, you see all events and characters though John’s eyes. Everything that you read is tainted by the archetypal images John’s unconscious self which are being projected onto different characters and situations. This leads the reader to the question of how does one know that the story of Owen Meany is true, and that all the characters are portrayed truthfully.

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