Tom Child

Lakewood, CA
United States

This is a report on John Irving's novel "A Prayer for Owen Meany". I'm putting it up here because of my dismay at the woeful lack of John Irving information (particularly essays regarding his work) that might have helped me write this report. If you feel the need to qoute any of it, just give me credit and write me an E-Mail telling me about yourself and possibly sending me a copy of your writing on this wonderful novel. Beware though, I only got a B+.--------- "I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany."--------- --------- "A Prayer For Owen Meany" by John Irving is a novel that deals with faith, destiny, friendship, and heroism. The main character, Owen Meany, is an extraordinary person who affects the lives of all who know him. He makes many sacrfices in order to accomplish the task in life that he believes he has been given by God. His heroism is evident in his selflessness, courage, and desire to fulfill his destiny. --------- Owen is the son of granite workers in New Hampshire. As a child, he is so small that the other children in his class will pick him up and pass him around over their heads when the teacher is not in the room. He has a strange high pitched voice which stays with him throughout adulthood. At a young age, he experiences a feverish vision of his own death and from that point on, he believes that God has a special plan for him. Later in his life, he fulfills his destiny and saves a group of schoolchildren by throwing himself on a grenade which had been thrown at them. Owen Meany is a hero in every sense of the word. --------- Owen Meany believes that he is an instrument of God. He thinks that God has set a task for him to complete and he does his best to fulfill each part of his destiny. Owen is convinced that God is showing him his future in dreams. In his diary, Owen writes: "LAST NIGHT I HAD A DREAM. NOW I KNOW FOUR THINGS. I KNOW THAT MY VOICE DOESN'T CHANGE-BUT I STILL DON'T KNOW WHY. I KNOW THAT I AM GOD'S INSTRUMENT. I KNOW WHEN I'M GOING TO DIE-AND I KNOW HOW I'M GOING TO DIE. I'M GOING TO BE A HERO! I TRUST THAT GOD WILL HELP ME, BECAUSE WHAT I'M SUPPOSED TO DO LOOKS VERY HARD!" Owen lives his life by the belief that what he has been shown in his dreams will happen. Because of his faith in God, he accepts the destiny that he believes has been laid down for him and he lives his life accordingly. Occasionally, he is elated to think that he has been picked to serve God in this manner. The reader sees Owen Meany as someone special. Because of the extensive use of foreshadowing, the reader knows that what Owen Meany predicts will come true. This enhances the sprituality surrounding Owen. Owen is depicted as a Christ figure complete with a virgin birth. Although he lives his life in preparation fo his death, he doesn't mope around or act like a martyr. Like Christ, he knows that he will have to sacrifice his own life for the good of humanity and he accepts this fact with dignity and grace. These qualities make him a sympathetic character in the eyes of the reader. Owen's story is related by his best friend John. Throughout the novel, John continually castigates Owen for his belief in destiny. He is skeptical of Owen's dream and he feels that Owen is making a big mistake when he signs up for the army in the middle of the Vietnam war just to fulfill a vision given to him in a dream. "'Owen,' I said. 'You can't believe that God wants you to go to Vietnam for the purpose of making yourself available to rescue these characters in a dream!'" John explains to Owen in no uncertain terms what he thinks of Owen's visions. Eventually though, John comes to realize the truth about Owen Meany, and this realization changes his life forever. --------- Owen Meany's most important value is his faith in God. Without this, he knows that his dreams would be nothing more than fantasy. He risks losing his faith every time he stops to take a look at what he is doing. He writes in his diary: "I DON'T KNOW ANYMORE. I'M NOT AFRAID, BUT I'M VERY NERVOUS. AT FIRST I DIDN'T LIKE KNOWING-NOW I DON'T LIKE NOT KNOWING! GOD IS TESTING ME...MAYBE IT REALLY IS 'JUST A DREAM'!" He manages to hold on to his beliefs and see things through to the very end. His values are admirable. He has tenacity, faith, and a strong will. He is not swayed by other's opinions, no matter how much sense they might make. Owen Meany knows that he has a job to do and he is going to make sure it gets done. Owen could have chosen to completely disregard his feelings about his relationship with God. He could have taken the easier and more logical path and decided that he was taking unnecessary risks in life. He might have examined his decisions and realzed that they were motivated by intangible dreams and delusional visions. At any point during his life he could have given up and gone home, insuring a safer existence. Owne decides to take the hard road, though. He decides to accept the task that God gives him even though he knows that it means his life will be sacrificed. --------- One major conflict in Owen's life is the decision that he faces regarding his destiny. He needs to make the choice either to accept his destiny or reject it. The decision also has to do with Owen's faith. If he rejects his destiny, it's essentially a rejection of God Himself. Owen decides to accept the mission that he believes God has given him. This action gives Owen faith and trust in all aspects of life, not just religion. His decision elevates him to an entirely different level of existence form where most other people spend their lives. John says: "Owen Meany could manifest a certain calmness that I had never quite liked; when he got like that...I didn't want to touch him...when I had to put my hands on him...I always felt I was handling a creature that was not exactly human, or not quite real. I wouldn't have been surprised if...after I'd lifted him-he'd just kept on flying." Owen is displaying the demeanor of a man who knows exactly why he is on Earth. He doesn't particularly fear death or anything else. He knows his purpose in life and exactly what he has to do to fulfill it. The calmness that he displays is the sort of calmness that only someone with his knowledge could possess. It frightens John because he realizes that Owen is existing on a different level, but he can't understand why. Owen demonstrates the traits of bravery, selflessness, and faith. He demonstrates mans' ability to put every bit of his faith into something ridiculously improbable and he shows that sometimes that faith is not misspent. (HERE PART OF MY TEXT WAS CUT OFF DURING A FAULTY DISK COPYING. IF I CAN FIND MY ORIGINAL, I'LL GO BACK AND REPLACE THIS SECTION-ed.) ---------After Owen's death, John remembers: "When we held Owen Meany above our heads, when we passed him back and forth-so effortlessly-we believed that Owen weighed nothing at all. We did not realize that there were forces beyond our play. Now I know they were the forces that contributed to our illusion of Owen's weightlessness; they were the forces we didn't have the faith to feel, they were the forces we failed to believe in-and they were also lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands. O God-please give him back! I shall keep asking You." Owen gives John somewhere to place his faith during a century when there is so little in which to believe. He provides John with a focus in life, but more importantly, Owen was a good friend to John which is probably the most heroic of all.

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