America, according to John Irving in this novel, has been declining morally for the past thirty years, and there is an ever-increasing abundance of American pastimes which give “good disaster.” So Irving gives his readers--or, at least, gives John Wheelwright, the narrator of this strange novel--a new messiah, Owen Meany. Meany, who believes he is God’s instrument, is literally a pip-squeak: his classmates pass him back and forth over their heads when the teacher is out of the room, and his voice is tiny, mouselike, though what he teaches Wheelwright and prophesies with that voice is BIG. Meany even predicts correctly the exact date of his own death.
While playing baseball Meany hits Wheelwright’s mother on her left temple and kills her. That was ordained by God, Meany assures Wheelwright; and strangest of all the strange twists here is that Wheelwright becomes Meany’s unquestioning disciple. So devoted is he that he allows Meany the seer to saw off one of his fingers to keep him out of Vietnam (though Wheelwright ends up in Canada anyway, sans the finger but with a bellyfull of disgust for America).
Irving’s characters are always grotesque and unreflective, his stories campy, his humor preppy, and his interest now--after abortion in THE CIDER HOUSE RULES--is in religion. The problem is that this novel subordinates individual free will to predestination, with Meany outdoing John Calvin and Ralph Waldo Emerson by throwing himself...
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A Prayer for Owen Meany Essay
1331 Words6 Pages
A Prayer for Owen Meany
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.-
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…show more content…
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