Owen Meany


Owen Meany Essay, Research Paper

“Watch out for people who call themselves religious; make sure you know what they mean-make sure they know what they mean!” (572). In the novel written by John Irving, A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY, the protagonist, Owen Meany, developed an unusual religious significance. Owen experienced visions of future events, he had a unique type of faith in God that most do not attain, and Owen spoke endlessly to inform people about God. Throughout Owen’s life he demonstrated the same characteristics as a prophet through his actions and his words. Thus one could conclude that Owen Meany is a prophet.

Similar to a prophet, Owen was given precognitive powers that allowed him to see into the future. Owen’s first prophecy came to him on New Years Eve 1953 during the community production of ‘A Christmas Carol’. The most obvious inference concerning the play was that Owen played the part of the ghost of Christmas yet to come. In reaction to Owen’s portrayal of this character, the audience’s faces which were “so amused, so curious, so various-were rendered shockingly similar; each face became the model of each other’s fear” (42). Owen had dehumanized this character to the point that children were leaving the theater crying and some were even wetting their pants. One reference which could be made concerning Owen and Scrooge was that “GOD HAS ALLOWED [them] TO KNOW MORE THAN MOST PEOPLE KNOW-?” (366). Both of them were told their futures, however Scrooge made an effort to change his, where as Owen did not. Owen’s revelation came through a vision he experienced during the graveyard scene of the play. He immediately fainted. The curtains went down, and members of the production all ran to Owen’s aid, yet he seemed ungrateful, “He appeared to be sullenly embracing his ‘vision’ like the typically doubtless prophet he so often seemed to be?” (246). Owen believed he had seen his name on a gravestone along with the date of his death. No one could convince him otherwise. The fact that Owen was correct about the date of his death confirmed that he had visions; this proved he had qualities of a prophet.

A prophet uses prophecies to not only prove they have powers, but also to benefit others. The second prophecy came to Owen in his dreams when he envisioned the reason and the way his life would end. Owen wrote of his dream in his diary. No one realized how detailed and precise it really was until they read it. Owen stated in his diary, “THE WAY THEY LOOK AT ME, I KNOW TWO THINGS. I KNOW I SAVED THEM-I DON’T KNOW HOW. AND I KNOW THAT THEY’RE AFRAID FOR ME?” (474). The entries in his diary revealed that he died saving Vietnamese children. He was a prime example of courage and integrity. A prophet uses their prophecies to not only prove that they have powers, but also to somehow benefit the world or allow people to learn from their visions. In Owen’s case, “he had established himself as a prophet?” (201). It was a wonder to John that “the changing of the year had so little effect on Owen Meany – when [John] considered that he thought he knew?exactly how many years he had left. Yet he appeared content? maybe that’s what faith is?” (358). Was Owen’s sole purpose in life only to save the Vietnamese children? The mind wants to say no because many of us could never comprehend such a sacrifice.

Owen Meany found strength in his belief that God made him for a special, heroic purpose. Owen thought he was the reason John’s mother was killed. One night, Having gone into her room, he witnessed an apparition. Owen believed the task of John’s mother’s death had been passed to him for he had interrupted the angel of death at her holy work. To imply that this incident was an accident was to be accused that you lacked faith. In Owen’s opinion “?he had DISTURBED AN ANGEL AT WORK, he had UPSET THE SCHEME OF THINGS” (102). Robbed from an ordinary life, “Owen felt that God had assigned him a role that he was powerless to change?” (420). Owen’s mission was clear to him; he was God’s instrument. Although he suffered the loss of John’s mother, he trusted that God was doing this for a reason. Owen truly believed God was using him to do his work on earth, and believing this, Owen entrusted his life to God. Not only did his faith surpass that of the community; it also surpassed even that of Pastor Merill. In fact Pastor Merill, the reverend at Owen’s church, had no faith; he had lost it when John’s mother died. The Pastor admits that “Compared to Owen Meany, I am an amateur-in my faith” (Irving 499). Owen has complete trust and is not frightened to discover the destiny which God has chosen for him; “IT’S NOT THAT I WANT TO BE A HERO, IT’S NOT THAT I WANT TO BE-IT’S THAT I AM A HERO. I KNOW THAT’S WHAT I AM SUPPOSE TO BE” (471). Owen was God’s messenger and God’s worker.

As Owen grew up, he began delivering his messages on life and faith. Owen had become an instructor in the community and in the church. He was heard through the publications of the Gravesend paper known as ‘The Grave’ every week. It was through his submitted essays that he quickly acquired the title ‘The Voice’. Each article commented on society or subjects of justice and morality. Owen was respected by many students at Gravesend Academy, not only because of his wit and courage to criticise his superiors but because he spoke on behalf of the students. He was a natural leader, he won people over by his persuasiveness with his words; “JUST BECAUSE A BUNCH ATHEIST ARE BETTER WRITERS THAN THE GUYS WHO WROTE THE BIBLE, DOESN’T NECESSARILY MAKE THEM RIGHT ” (277). Not only did Owen enlighten the surrounding community with his words of wisdom, but he also lead those around him to question the role of the church within their lives. Owen’s biggest accomplishment was teaching John what faith was and what it meant to have it. John always remembered Owen because “he [was] the reason I [believed] in God; I am Christian because of Owen Meany” (1). Not only was it Owen who helped John through school, gave him the gift of reading, saved his life, and kept him out of Vietnam, he also taught John the most important lesson in faith; that seeing did not mean believing. Owen explains that faith is believing in something without actually seeing it. He uses a statue in the dark as an example of faith saying, “YOU KNOW THE STATUE IS THERE RIGHT?YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW SHE IS THERE-EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN’T SEE HER??WELL NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FELL ABOUT GOD?I CAN’T SEE HIM-BUT I ABSOLUTELY KNOW HE IS THERE!” (451). He taught John that faith is not just believing in God but knowing he exists to the point of putting love, faith and destiny in one power. Owen marked his place within the hearts of those who surrounded him with his teachings, strong words of advice and encouragement.

Owen Meany demonstrated many characteristics of a prophet, and could be linked to a prophetic figure. On more than one occasion, he had visions of future events which affected other people around him physically and spiritually. Throughout his life he also maintained a special relationship and strong faith in God. Many of Owens morals and values that he voiced became strong teachings about life. Although everyone in the world did not know him, many believed he was special for his wisdom at such a young age. Through these accomplishments, Owen leads himself to the stage of being a prophet. Today, prophets could be all among us, yet society turns away from the idea. The idea of a teacher for the subject of life fascinates many, but the idea of God sending messengers to us repels those who lack faith. What would it take for you to recognize a prophet? Many prophets may go unrecognized in the world and yet the only way they can exist is if someone will believe in them.


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