The choice of the writer Thomas Hardy for John's Master's thesis is highly deliberate. Hardy's work is obsessed with the idea of fate, a belief that all is predestined to end in tragedy. Hardy's fatalism gives Owen the opportunity to expound on his own fatalism, and gives Irving the opportunity not only to develop Owen's character and the theme of fate, but also to include important passages from Hardy's writing that enhance the thematic exploration at work in Irving's novel.
The Shot The grenade explodes; John's eardrums begin to bleed. Owen's arms are blown off just below the elbow, and he flies into the sink. A nun rushes to him.
As Dick Jarvits runs out of the men's room, Major Rawls kills him with his own machete. Owen's voice had to be high, so the children would not be frightened of it; Owen had to be small, so that the children would trust him. Owen has lived to save the children, even to the point of learning Vietnamese--"Phoenix" is even written in his diary--and John accepts Owen Meany as a miracle, as a proof of God's existence.
He believes that Owen was lifted up by supernatural forces his entire life, and that this is why he weighed so little. Mournfully, John asks God to give Owen Meany back, and pledges to keep asking.
Commentary This final chapter is essentially divided into two parts, the first centering around the time just after Owen's death and the second describing Owen's death itself. The first part of the chapter features the two great bombshells of plot resolution, when we learn that Rev.
Merrill is John's father and that Owen's parents told him he was a virgin birth. Neither John nor the Reverend believe them, thinking that the Meanys invented the story for personal reasons. Given the other miracles associated with Owen, the reasons for their disbelief are not entirely clear, and Irving leaves this part of the novel relatively ambiguous, never saying whether Mrs.
Meany had an affair, or whether Mr.
Meany was ashamed to be the father of a dwarf, or whether Owen really was a miraculous birth. In any case, he never proposes a different candidate for Owen's father.
Most readers of the book have assumed that we are meant to believe that the Meanys are lying, simply because of John's vehemence on the subject. Meanys articulates an important problem with religious faith when he asks: If you actually believe that miracles have happened, why is it impossible to believe that a miracle could occur in one's own life?
Whatever the case, the matter of John's parentage is not left in similar doubt. Merrill, the philosophical representative in the book of the relationship between doubt and faith, is his father, much to John's disappointment. This section of the book is laced with a heavy and not entirely convincing irony, as John describes his prank to reawaken the reverend's faith.
The irony is that, with all the miracles the reverend has witnessed Owen's life and death, Owen's visitation when he reveals the baseball in his desk drawer, the divine--he believes--intervention that caused Tabby's deaththe reverend has lost his faith; the only thing that can make him believe again is a very mortal prank played by John.
In this way, the reverend becomes an increasingly pathetic figure throughout the novel, and some of the book's final musings on religious faith are savagely undercut with a sense of human failing.
John has lived his whole life desperate to know the identity of his father, and when he does so, he feels nothing in particular.
The fact that the Rev. Merrill is his father does not "mean" anything--it seems to have no real symbolic importance in the novel except perhaps to say that the skeptical John is born of doubtand does nothing but make John slightly more miserable.
This revelation forms something of a satisfying anticlimax--satisfying because it puts to rest a question left unanswered since the beginning of the novel, anticlimactic because it lacks energy, thematic importance, and catharsis, which is exactly the point.
The long scene in which Owen is killed--in exactly the manner he thought he would be, validating his own long-held conviction that he was God's instrument--is the proper climax of the novel, and John delays it to the very end of the book.
Owen is killed by a character who is his exact opposite: Of course Owen's death miraculously rounds out the armlessness motif, implying that Owen's foreknowledge of his own manner of dying actually caused the armlessness motif by suggesting to Owen his obsession with amputation. Owen's death is one of the most densely layered subjects in the novel, with philosophical, religious, and mythological references ranging from resurrection the city of Phoenix--a mythological phoenix was a bird which rose from its own ashes--and the "Easter service" of the funeral, as well as the pleas of John and the reverend for God to return Owen to Earth to messianism the idea that the characters believe in Owen; the idea that Owen should rise from the grave like Christ.
Still, it is arguable that Irving leaves the main religious question of the novel unresolved. Throughout the book, the thematic argument of the novel is between faith on the one hand and the miraculous on the other; as Owen says, where there are miracles, there can be no faith, because a miracle obviates the need for faith.
The essence of religious doubt is lack of evidence for God's existence--that is, lack of miracles. Faith is a blind leap despite a lack of evidence; therefore, the condition of doubt is the basis of religious faith, as the epigraph of the novel implies. When a miracle occurs, there is then evidence for God's existence; there is no reason for doubt, and faith can be replaced with a certainty of belief.
The principle characters in the book struggle with religious doubt throughout the novel; Owen is the only character with unwavering belief. But at the end of the novel, strangely, John is not forced to make a choice between faith and doubt; rather, he is given a miracle--the life and death of Owen, which obviously defies any other explanation--on which to base his religious belief.
Apart from Owen's death, he receives two supernatural visitations from his friend, including one which turns his hair white, as further proof of God's existence. So when John says that Owen Meany made him a Christian, he means not that Owen taught him how to overcome doubt with faith, but rather that Owen provided him with a miracle--on the basis of which he could banish doubt from his thinking.
Oddly, however, neither John nor the Rev.A Prayer for Owen Meany Questions and Answers. The Question and Answer section for A Prayer for Owen Meany is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel - Kindle edition by John Irving. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. /5(K). We will write a custom essay sample on A character analysis of john irving’s novel ‘a prayer for analysis-of-john-irvings-novel-a-prayer-for-owen-meany.
"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.
In the end though, we're going to make the call that Owen is really the protagonist of this novel. John tells us Owen's story from beginning to end. It's because of Owen that anything even really happens to the other characters.
Owen is like the conductor of some big, crazy orchestra. quotes from A Prayer for Owen Meany: ‘When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces.