Through the novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Irving focuses a great deal on the memory that John has about Owen. This, in turn, affects John as he cannot forget about Owen and his death. In this novel, memories can serve as a source strength and assertion in times of great stress, but they can also be hurtful and do more harm than good. Irving writes “Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory, but it has you!” This shows how memories are often times too agonizing to forget. This is an important concept through the novel as the reader notices that John lives mostly in the past as an adult, holding on to memories of the time he spent with Owen. Memory is a strong power that John finds hard to escape. Irving writes “The first Christmas following my mother's death was the first Christmas I didn't spend in Sawyer Depot. My grandmother told Aunt Martha and Uncle Alfred that if the family were all together, my mother's absence would be too apparent. If Dan and Grandmother and I were alone in Gravesend, and if the Eastmans were alone in Sawyer Depot, my grandmother argued that we would all miss each other; then, she reasoned, we wouldn't miss my mother so much.” In this quote, Harriet tries to obstruct the family’s painful memories by changing Christmas traditions. If the family does something completely different, they won’t pay attention to what’s missing. John tries desperately to forget his past, but he has little avail in doing so.
To prove that John still lingers in the past, Irving writes “I fall asleep listening to the astonishing complexity of a child breathing in his sleep—of a loon crying out on the dark water, of the waves lapping the rocks onshore. And in the morning, long before the child stirs, I hear the gulls and I think about the tomato-red pickup cruising the coastal road between