A Prayer for Owen Meany Essay
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A Prayer for Owen Meany
In literature of significant standing, no act of violence is perpetrated without reason. For a story to be legitimate in the area of fine literature violence cannot be used in a wanton manner. In John Irving’s modern classic, A Prayer for Owen Meany the audience is faced with multiple scenes of strong violence but violence is never used without reason. All of the violent acts depicted in the novel are totally necessary for the characters and the plot to develop. This plot-required violence can be seen in the novel’s first chapter when Owen accidentally kills John’s mother and in the novel’s last chapter when John relates Owen’s grotesque, while heroic, death to the audience. The violence…show more content…
Callahan 2 mother’s death I can remember everyone who was in the stands that day...” This reference to the narrator’s vivid memory and the detailed depiction of the event shows the gravity of the situation and allows the reader to fully grasp the impact that the accident had on both the protagonist and the narrator. This act of bizarre violence is used masterfully in the author’s recount of his life. It shows how hard it is for a young boy to lose the only parent he ever knew and it also shows how hard it is for a child to be implicated in an event where someone close to the child has been unintentionally killed.
In the novel’s final chapter, John reveals the climax of the story, Owen’s death. Owen’s death is intricate to the story and by the time this scene is read the audience is already aware of Owen’s untimely death. What makes this scene so important is the manner in which Owen died; being killed by a lunatic’s grenade while saving a group of Vietnamese children. The details of this event fulfill Owen’s Christ-like prophecy of his own death. Owen had previously predicted that he would die on July 8, 1968 saving Vietnamese children from their own certain death, and he did. This sequence of events leaves an unquenched doubt in the audience’s mind as to Owen’s true relationship to a higher power when the
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Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be. Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me. - Frederick Buechner In the novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, Owen Meany's belief of predestination makes a significant impact on John Wheelwright's emotional stability as an adult. John Wheelwright is unhealthily bitter and angry about his past experiences because he clings to a past that never lets him choose. This bitterness fuels his repugnance towards the United States and the Reagan administration, because he understands that everything is in fact predestined just as Owen Meany had believed and he feels helpless because there is nothing he can do to change the course of events in life. The death and responsibility of John's mother's death fell into the hands of Owen Meany and John can never accept that it was Owen's fate to kill John's mother.
The Vietnam War was completely out of John's hands to control being a young adult and all, and the fact that eventually the war indirectly took the life of his best friend, for this he feels helplessly responsible and angry. Into adulthood, John becomes bitter towards the United States and its catastrophic news because he knows it is all destined to happen, and like everything else in his life, he has no control or power to change anything. The death of John's mother, Tabitha Wheelwright, was out of John's control and the job is predestined to be executed by Owen. Her death falls into Owen's hands because as he believes one night after an atrocious fever, that he had interrupted the Angel of Death. Because of this, the task was then placed on him so that he would be the one to kill Tabitha Wheelwright. In Owen's opinion, he had INTERUPTED AN ANGEL, he had DISTURBED AN ANGEL AT WORK, he had UPSET THE SCHEME OF THINGS. - The Angel, pg. 102 Owen convinced himself that the reason he was used to kill John's mom is because he is an "instrument of God" and that God had taken away Owen's hands because he is helplessly under the control of destiny.
Tabitha Wheelwright died for a reason, and through God, it was predestined to happen by Owen's hands. John at the time was too young to understand the philosophy behind the fate that had been handed to Owen. As John grew older, he became hurt and obsessed with the whole notion. He always thought of "what ifs" and "if only" to assuage his evident wrath for the loss of his mother. John's troubled soul was fueled by hatred towards Owen's control for his destiny, the kind of control that John never has in his own life. The events leading up to the Vietnam War and beyond were out of his authority, however, as destiny has it; it is inescapably going to happen.
The war itself indirectly took the life of John's best friend and John always felt helpless and responsible thinking that somehow he should have taken some kind of control in order to change occurrences. Due to Owen Meany's belief that he is an instrument of God and that God has set a task for him to complete, Owen does his best to fulfill each part of his destiny. John does not understand why Owen bothered, John himself having so little faith and acceptance in destiny and fate. Owen has control over which path in life he should take, he could follow God's orders, or he could ignore his calling and not do as his fate would have to save the little Vietnamese children. John's feeling of helplessness in the fate that has befallen Owen makes him feel responsible and angry because he thinks he could have tried to persuade Owen to avoid his destiny. Moreover, John is angry by Owen's faith in God and his acceptance of his destiny by living his life accordingly rather than avoiding it, the control that John never has in catastrophic predestined events.
John feels disconcerted as to why God would lay the kind of destiny he did into Owen's hands because he always tested Owen's belief that he is the instrument of God. He found the whole idea quite incomprehensible. How could Owen Meany have known what he 'knew'? It's no answer, of course, to believe in accidents, or in coincidences; but is God really a better answer?
If God had a hand in what Owen 'knew, ' what a horrible question that poses! For how could God have let that happen to Owen Meany! Watch out for people who call themselves religious; make sure you know what they mean - make sure they know what they mean! - The Shot, pg. 571 - 572 As the world turns, life still goes on, planned out on a large map the events that will happen that sometimes makes drastic turns a person's life. Because of Owen, John understood the idea of fate and destiny although for much of his life he ignored the idea. He lives his life bitterly and alone because he feels getting close to anyone, he would have another predestined loss. John reads the American newspapers because he is obsessed with the idea that this is all one big fateful plan.
The newspapers are a constant and bitter reminder to John what little control he has in life and as much as he tries to escape it all, it haunts him. John cannot truly make up his mind whether or not he believes in pre-destiny because he never had the choice, it was all because of Owen Meany. His skepticism and denial drives him mad with despair. 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. - The Foul Ball, pg. 1 This quote is not evidence towards John's understanding of destiny, but rather that he is a doomed man that he never had the choice in what he did believe in because Owen Meany was his proof. You " re always telling me I don't have any faith, " I wrote to Owen. "Well - don't you see - that's a part of what makes me so indecisive.
I wait to see what will happen next - because I don't believe that anything I might decide to do would matter. You know Hardy's poem... I know: you believe in God, but I believe in 'Crass Casualty' - in chance, in luck. That's what I mean. You see? What good does it do to make whatever decision you " re talking about?
What good does courage do - when what happens next is up for grabs? - The Finger, pg. 504 John's confusion in destiny stems from the fact that he believes that anything is possible in life and that it is not one big blueprint of the world. Owen Meany never gave John the chance to decide for himself in what he believed in because Owen disproved John's belief by confirming to John that life is destiny. John Wheelwright in A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving is a depressed and bitter man who leads a solitary life in the confinements of his past because he has been so traumatized by catastrophic events in his life that he cannot bring himself to move forward. He is bitter about the future because he accepts that everything in life is predestined and he feels angry because he has no control of what the future brings. As destiny has it, he has no control over the death of his mother, the indirect death of his best friend caused by the Vietnam War, and the current to future issues facing the world.
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