A Prayer For Owen Meany
(Pg. 309 Pg. 617)
John Wheelwright writing from his home in Toronto, Canada takes the reader on an extraordinary journey of unwavering friendship and belief in God. Owen Meany is a very bizarre boy due to his diminutive size and high voice comes from a low class family that runs a granite quarry. Reverend Louis Merrill is the doubt-plagued Congregationalist minister in Gravesend, who often speaks to Owen about matters of religious faith. At the end of the book, John learns that the Rev. Merrill is his father. Randy White is the headmaster at Gravesend Academy, which John and Owen attend, is responsible for the expulsion of Owen from the school which promptly results in his own dismissal. Hester Eastman is Johns cousin is Owens girlfriend. Larry Lish is the boy responsible for leading to Owens expulsion by revealing that Owen made fake IDs. Dick Jarvits is a sadistic 15 year old boy whole sole purpose is to kill any Vietnamese person he can and kills Owen Meany in the process. These characters play pivotal roles that form the basis of the story.
The narrator, John Wheelwright writing in 1987 goes back down memory lane to the early 1950s and 60s when he and Owen were just children, carefree and innocent. The story set in the small town of Gravesend, New Hampshire. The story takes shape as we see the two friends grow up and attend Gravesend Academy and later on moves to the University of New Hampshire, before Owen joins the army and gets sent to Vietnam. The story takes shape, pouring light on the transitions that one undergoes from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood.
The plot of the story so far revolved around Owen and John and how they handled the incident by which Owen accidentally kills Johns mother. The story resumes from Gravesend Academy where Owen is quite popular and started to write his own column THE VOICE, which he uses to vehemently support the John F. Kennedy campaign. Owen starts to go out with Johns cousin Hester who goes off to the University of New Hampshire. As the school year progresses Owen develops an interest in basketball despite his diminutive size. Owen and John religiously practice a slam-dunk maneuver that Owen is obsessed to complete in four seconds, calling it, THE SHOT. The Academy committee finally decides to hire Randy White for the post of Headmaster of the Academy. One day Owen confides in John that he believes he is Gods Instrument to which both friends enter into a colossal argument, however they also complete THE SHOT in four seconds for the first time during this argument. Owen meanwhile narrowly avoids expulsion and has to endure sessions with a psychologist for sexually propositioning Mitzy Lish to stop her telling him about the Kennedy- Monroe affair. Larry Lish her son is later caught buying alcohol with a fake ID made by Owen, which leads to Owens immediate expulsion. The Rev. Merrill and the students pray silently for Owen Meany the next day, meanwhile Mr. White is dismissed as Headmaster following a no confidence vote by the committee. In the fall of 1962 they start their freshmen year at the University of Hampshire at the end of which Owen starts basic training to go to war. Before leaving for a temporary Vietnam trip Owen confides in John the details of the dream that Owen keeps having, telling him when and how he would die, saying that he was to die saving Vietnamese children and saying that he was Gods Instrument. When Owen returns home he helps John avoid getting drafted into the army by cutting off his trigger finger. The present day John then recalls the time after Owens death when he went to his house, when Owens parents told him that he was a virgin birth and also found the tombstone that Owen made for himself six months before he died with his exact date of death. John then is shocked to find out that Rev. Merrill is his actual father. Finally John describes the manner in which Owen dies, he comes back home and is about to leave for Vietnam again when he is asked by a nun to accompany some Vietnam war orphans to the washroom where he and John meet Dick Jarvits attempting to kill the children. Just as Dick throws the grenade at John catches it. Owen tells John to perform THE SHOT where John hurls Owen into the air and he sticks the grenade high into a window sill. As the grenade goes off Owens arms are blasted off and in the end he dies due to excessive bleeding. Owen then tells John this was the reason why they practiced the shot so often. John finally accepts Owen's sense of purpose and accepts Owen as the instrument of God. 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 had lived to save the children, even to the point of learning Vietnamese and John accepts Owen Meany as a miracle, as a proof of God's existence.
The story deals with many conflicts that have made to pour light on the amazing almost divine qualities of Owen. When Owens baseball hit killed Johns mother Owen suffered from a Man vs. Himself conflict. Another conflict that remains prevalent throughout the story is the conflict of Man vs. God, John and Reverend Merrill in particular lost their faith in God and started to question his existence however Owens unwavering faith held them all together and in the end all their faiths were restored.
Faith vs. Doubt is the basic theme of the novel. Owen is obsessed with his belief and faith in God, he believes that all that happens is Gods will, be it happy or tragic. John on the other hand is filled with doubt and questions Gods existence. He learns to believe in God mostly through Owens faith, a case similar to Rev. Merrill.