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Analysis Of A Prayer For Owen Meany English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2467 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The economical/political social background of the story A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving had a huge impact on the characters and the plot of the story. John Irving chose to write about America’s political state throughout the story to connect it to past tragic events which have occurred in the main characters life. His writing style makes us aware of his view on America’s society and he too, like the main character in this book moved from America to Canada.

Owen Meany claimed himself to be the instrument of God. His parents told him he was a virgin death; could he be the baby Christ? John Irving presented Owen with characteristics which made him seem like he is not part of this world. Owen could have been a tragic hero.

            Many unpleasant events occurred throughout Owen’s life even though he was a virtuous person. He died by saving the life of Vietnamese kids. This connects to Romeo and Juliet, because when they died, their death made the Capulets and Montagues stop the feud and it made them notice how it was stupid of them to keep the two apart and they started to settle their differences. Before Owen died, his family would hate the Catholics for an event which occurred in their families past history. However, Owen died helping a nun take children to the washroom and so everyone realized their hate for each other was nonsensical. “The major knew Owen had been a hero” (616). A tragic hero always has a huge impact on the characters and readers, and Owen changed everyone’s opinion about who he truly was. “I guess we were wrong about your little friend” (556). Owen motivated the rev to find his lost faith and now he spoke with belief and confidence at the funeral. “Owen was not just a hero to the United States Army- he was our hero” (556). There was something about him that attracted everyone. Even John’s mother loved Owen just like her own son. Owen would never complain about others and he would just stay there and take in the pain which symbolized him as a martyr. When he saw a man on the streets, he would want to help him right away. “WE SHOULD STOP AND HELP THAT MAN” (25). He had qualities which most of us humans don’t possess no matter how noble and devoted we are. He even played the baby Christ in a play and that compared him to one of God’s messengers. He would follow the holy book and always asked: “Does it say so in the bible?” (170). Owen’s strange small size and very high voice was a symbol as well. This demonstrated to us how he was not a normal human but something different. Owen never tried to change his voice, because he knew it was for a purpose and it came from God. He was represented as a leader. He also controlled people older than him and he even demanded the Catholics to sign petitions against themselves. “He was not intimidated by the bigger boys because he had been smaller” (228). Everyone would listen to him such as the priests and he corrected them about their philosophy. Owen played the Lord Jesus in another play which showed his connection to God.  Owen was even known as “the voice”, because he represented everyone’s opinions and beliefs in the high school. Owen was exceptional, and all his differences portrayed him as God’s instrument. He didn’t die unexpectedly without ever knowing. But since the day he was born, he knew his whole life ahead of him and he knew that everything which happened to him was planned to happen, even his death. Therefore, he is related to a tragic hero because it was written in his destiny from the start.

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One important message the author tried to convey throughout the book was how strong the friendship between Owen and John was. Owen was the reason John got far in life and the author used many symbols and motifs to express it. After John’s mother died, Owen took her dressmaker’s dummy from John. “DONT STARE AT THE DUMMY. IT’S NOT GOOD FOR YOU” (183). Owen knew the dummy would remind him of Tabitha. Not just did Owen take the dummy, but he took the baseball. The baseball symbolized the instrument of his mother’s death. He also took John’s Armadillo which Dan had given to him, but he returned it after removing the claws. Without the claws, the armadillo could not be stable. All these items he took away from Owen were a motif throughout the book which represented how they both had lost something important, which they loved. In the beginning of the book, they mention Watahantowet who was an armless Indian Sagamore who owned land but lost it. This was also a reoccurring motif in the novel representing how they had less power and they were helpless. It even showed the pain caused by events which occurred in their life. At the end, Owen cut off John’s index finger to help John avoid joining the Vietnamese war. This shows us how John trusted Owen and placed confidence in him by knowing he had done the right thing. It seems as if Owen took a lot from John through his life. But, these examples showed us how he helped him and gave him more then what he took away. When Owen took the dressmakers dummy, John took Owen’s baseball cards which he loved. This conveyed how Owen wanted to communicate the feeling of loosing something important. Even at the end of the story, Owen died with his arm being blasted off. Once again, another motif of amputation of body parts represented pain and loss due to tragic incidents which occurred. When Tabitha passed away, to John and Owen, it was just like them losing an arm or breaking a leg. But to Owen, it also symbolized how he was god’s instrument and his hands were being controlled by him. Owen tried to guide John. He repeated ninth grade for him and went to the same university as John and refused the offer to Harvard. John would always say: “I learned it from you” (502). This also creates a balance act, because on one side would be John’s most prized possessions and his only memory of his mother taken away from him. But on the other side would be the loss Owen went through for John such as living away from his parents and the meaning behind everything he took from John. Owen was a loyal and brave hero to John. He helped alleviate the losses in John’s life.

In the story A Prayer for Owen Meany, the author John Irving conveys different messages. Many of the themes are connected to spirituality and portray life lessons you should follow. One important theme is based on fate, which is the belief of the idea that your destiny is controlled by a certain force or power.

            One of the messages communicated is how everything happens for a reason, and the author shows us how strong the power of fate is. In the novel, everything which occurred in Owen’s life was no coincidence. “Owen believed that coincidence was a stupid, shallow refuge sought by stupid shallow people who were unable to accept the fact that their lives were shaped by a terrifying and awesome design” (186). Within the previous quote, there is a metaphor which gives you an idea about how coincidences throughout your life aren’t arbitrary, but everything is written in your destiny and it’s as if your life is planned out. One example which supports that metaphor is the time during John’s mother’s wedding. There was a huge storm and the author used pathetic fallacy to connect it to a horrible incident which was about to occur. It was very windy and rainy; and John’s mother was hit by a hailstone on her head. This was a sign foreshadowing another upcoming incident which would occur with her. When Owen was in bed feeling sick, he was walking to Tabitha’s room for comfort and it seemed as if he saw an angel. “SOMEONE STRANGE IS IN HER ROOM. COME SEE! I THINK IT’S AN ANGEL” (79). This linked to another future event. It foreshadowed how Tabitha was going to die soon, because an angel of death represents taking away the soul. During Owen’s baseball games, he was never allowed to play. But once his coach let him get on the field, however he could never swing a pitch. As he was about to hit the ball, John’s mother was walking by. Ironically, Owen swung the bat with a good deal of force that the ball hit his mother and killed her. Owen believed that he saw the angel of death the night before, and stopped it from accomplishing its task for God. Since it was time for his mother to die, he had to finish the task. Another tragic event which occurred in Owen’s life was the day he was playing football with John. He kicked the ball very far and their neighbour’s dog, Sagamore, ran after it. As Sagamore ran, he ran into a diaper truck and sadly died. The significance of this event was a message from God demonstrating to Owen how he is the instrument of God, and he is controlled by Him. He is now given the power from God, and it motivates him in the future. Once, Owen was asked to play the ghost of the future in the play A Christmas Carol. No one knew why he was given that role and it only had a few lines which Owen disliked. But, as he was reading a name on a grave during his performance, he saw his own name and a date. “IT WAS MY REAL NAME. IT SAID THE WHOLE THING.” (254). The name revealed to him that he was going to be the ghost of the future and it gave away when his death would occur. Later, Owen had a dream. It was not just a nightmare, but it symbolized how God wanted him to accomplish an important task before he died. God gave him instructions to his next task. “I TRUST THAT GOD WILL HELP ME BECAUSE WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO LOOKS VERY HARD” (400). The reason Owen was given that specific role to play was another way God wanted to show him how his death should occur. Throughout the novel, John’s mother would never tell him who his real father was. He never knew, until Owen died. Owen revealed to John who his real father was, in his afterlife. This shows us the reason why his mother never told him, because there was another way God wanted him to discover the truth. The way Owen was born had a special purpose to it too. His parents said that he was a virgin birth and therefore they disgraced Catholics. As a result, that created a feud. No one knew why he was born that way. Nevertheless, he was born unique and he served a purpose in life by helping so many people. “Owen believed that there was a purpose to everything that happened-that god meant for the story of his life to have some meaning to it and god picked Owen”(540). One motif in the book was Owen and John practising their basket-ball shot over and over again. They would try to break their record of scoring in 2 seconds. Later, they used this skill in an important part of the novel.  When the grenade was thrown at John, he caught it the same way Owen and him practised and they passed it to each other to stop it from exploding. Therefore, many disasters and tragic events occur in our lives and sometimes we don’t deserve it. However, not only till the end do you receive the desired results you wanted from your hard work in life. Our life is like a pattern and we cannot control some circumstances, however there is a reason for why they occur.

The author had a way of communicating ideas which kept the book realistic but interesting. John Irving used various types of literary elements to convey his thoughts. The form he wrote in created a mood and tone which connected you to his characters.

Owen had dreams which revealed his future tasks God wanted him to accomplish. He then went through many struggles to complete them for God. His dreams related to different stories of messengers of God written in holy books. One example is Abraham, and how he was told to sacrifice his son in his dream. This is related to Owen’s connection to God and how Owen isn’t just a normal human. Another example in the book was how Owen had to cut off John’s index finger. This revealed how he gave the sacrifice by risking a chance of hurting his friend for God. Owen was also born a virgin birth and that is why he wasn’t close with his parents due to the fact they told him this news when he was 10! But, he was born highly intelligent and even his physical looks were unique. Jesus was also born the same way with special abilities. This showed us an example of how the author brought in different ideas and fit them into the book to relate the characters to important figures and he used many allusions. The author also used many symbols, such as the armadillo, baseball and red dress which created examples of motifs throughout the book, which I have mentioned in the previous journals. John Irving wrote the story effectively and this caused the readers to become attached to the character of Owen Meany. The setting of the story which was during the early 1950s effects decisions the characters made. John’s mother decided to get a television when Owen was fifteen and this created an excitement. The television taught them more about the society rather than what they had seen. At that time, Christianity was also very important in the culture. However, as years went by, more immigrants started to settle in and the result was the loss of America’s identity. That is why this book is based around the theme of religion and many religious ceremonies occurred. Everyone believed in miracles and their life was dependent on faith. The author added a believable effect to the story by giving the characters realistic traits. Even though Owen Meany was God’s instrument and could be compared to a deferential and intelligent angel, he changed a lot. As he grew older, the people he grew up with changed him and he did start to smoke like most teenagers. As John and Owen matured, their feelings for Hester developed strongly. The thoughts through their minds would be of what male’s experience of the general public today. Owen was not completely pure, but he was a character which most of us would try to be like and he if we too did know him, he would have influenced us greatly. The author did not write chronologically, but put different pieces together of John’s life which revealed to us secrets throughout the end of the book. There was a thorough plot development in the book but sometimes the author dragged it on and you would want him to get to the point. It was a well written novel with many different morals and themes the author tried to get across: Religion, Friendship, Family, War, Faith and Death.


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