A prayer for Owen Meany is a novel written by John Irving about his child hood, the loss of his mother and the influence of his friends and relationships on his faith and belief. The novel is written in his adulthood as a reflection of his encounter with Owen Meany, to whom he owes his faith and belief, in his quest to find answers relating to the identity of his father and to finding change to his angered nature, anger that sprouted from his mothers premature death, It is Owen who made me a believer (Irving, 2). Johns purpose for writing the novel is mainly aimed at informing the reader about the role of ones faith and religion in shaping their destiny, and the conflict that arises between faith and doubt as expressed by the way one chooses to practice their belief in life situations.
John first encounters Owen in his childhood, a childhood shrouded by mystery as he loses his mother through a freaky accident. An accident in which Owen happens to be the major cause, this is because Tabitha; Johns mother, dies from the impact of a baseball handled by Owen. This happens at a time Johns identity of his father is unknown as his mother dies and leaves it undisclosed. As a result, John develops anger and feels over burdened by this loss. Owen on the other hand, sees the accident on a different perspective. Being a staunch Christian, who believes in divine purpose and has faith in the unseen, He leads John to believe that her mothers death was Gods purpose, God has taken your mother, my hands were the instruments. God has taken my hands, I am Gods instrument (Irving, 87). Owen uses his brilliance and his innate authoritative voice to console his friend, with insight from his Christian religion and faith to prompt John to lead a purposeful life, believing that God would reveal the identity of his father to him through his own ways.
The theme of faith arises where Owen finds relevance in his dreams, dreams that give a glimpse of his future and therefore decides to leave towards them. Owens dreams and belief is based on the premise that, he was born with a purpose of changing Johns life, by inducting him into his faith, and through which, John could find answers to his bitter questions. Through faith and determination, John could unravel the mystery behind his fathers Identity, Ive always asked myself what would be the magnitude of the miracle that would convince me of religions faith (Irving, 213). This however takes a very long period of time, which almost consumes his youth, as it is later in his early twenties that he finds answers to this mystery amid doubt and threats to his faith.
The conflict between doubt and faith arises soon after faith seems to have been the backbone to his successful discovery, but the means to which differ. John also cites doubt in believers who drop their faith after going through difficult and tough experiences like, Pastor Merrill and most of all, in the means to the end, as afore prescribed by Owens faith. Pastor Merrill who later on transpires as Johns Father, burdens the major conflict in the novel. Despite being a preacher, he fails to practice what he preaches and prior to John and Dans trick, he possesses no faith in his religion. To, the reader, John manages to create doubt in the essence of faith and religion in shaping our destiny, this is because, Pastor Merrill regains faith from the trick played to him by the two and not from the divine works and instruments used by God.
Owens death leaves John a different man in that, he learns to live by faith and the belief that all events are ordained by God. However, a look on the means to his discovery leaves him skeptical and in shreds of doubt. He questions the work of faith in the Pastors regained faith and its influence on his discovery, a discovery that Pastor Merrill was indeed his father. By staging a miracle before Merrill, through the dress makers dummy that resembled Tabitha, The pastor believes that he has seen an angel, and thus reacts through purgation to re-establish his faith and hint on his paternal identity to John. The trick in this case negates the principle of faith in shaping ones destiny and once again creating doubt in the reader and John himself. God would tell me who my father was, Owen Meany had assured me, but so far God had been silent (Irving, 201). Further conflict would arise where, Owen would contemplate about taking his own life despite being a believer of Gods ability to summon instruments towards his will for those whose believe him.
Irving, John. A prayer for Owen Meany: a novel. Random House Digital, Inc., 1997.
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