John Irving “Prayer for Owen Meany”

Religious component is absolutely impregnated with every sphere of human activity, especially its direct display is literature. Probably, the image of Christ is most often found in books. How could it be otherwise!? A righteous martyr who gave his life for the sake of others, both believing in him and unbelieving people. The problem of sacrifice does not rarely rise in literature, and when both paths are intertwined, an indelible impression on the souls of readers is guaranteed. As I said, the image of Christ is not a novelty for literature and the whole art. Perhaps it is easier to point out writers who did not use this symbolic image in their work, but in each of the individual cases, we can weed out the unnecessary and find quite similar, and sometimes even identical, features of the image of Christ.

First of all, this is the aforementioned sacrifice, or rather, the desire for self-sacrifice. Born by ordinary people, he came to this world to lead these ordinary people to light; the personification of the light component of the immortal antinomy of good and evil; a righteous man and a martyr; symbol of the decline and revival of the human race. The writer focuses on one of the symbols, sometimes fully distributes the “roles”, but in general the image does not change from the work to the work; only its outer shell changes. To all that I have said, I can only add that I know only one book in which the outer shell and the inner filling of this centuries-old image are unlike any of the previously read works. This is by no means a classic, not universally recognized masterpiece or the standard of verbal art; this is John Irving’s book “Prayer for Owen Meany”.

Briefly about the book

The narrative in the “Prayer for Owen Meany” is conducted on behalf of a certain John Wilrayt – an American emigrant living in Toronto. Filled with contempt for the land on which he grew up, he leaves for Canada, where he becomes a literature teacher at the girls’ school. His story he leads directly about the closest friend Owen Meany – a low kid with a very piercing and memorable voice. Owen Meany, a little saint, unrecognized by anyone, except his eternal companion and devotee John Wilrayt. They are united by one terrible accident: at the age of 11 Owen accidentally kills the narrator’s mother, but this should not be followed by direct apologies and sorrowful remorse. Owen believes that this is a sign from above; he believes that his hands have become the instrument of God, and he himself is the messenger of the Lord. Subsequent events further strengthen the faith in Owen Meany: he sees the angel, learns his own date of death, and in an appendage to all parents inform him of his immaculate conception.

Awareness of one’s own uniqueness literally “unleashes” Owen’s hands: he sometimes behaves in a strange way, allows himself unresolved antics. It seems that he foresees every step, knows the answer to any question, can find a common language with anyone. Obviously one thing is that such behavior of the boy does not find flattering reviews in the mouths of others, especially religiously aware and deeply believing citizens, what his native town was inhabited. It understands and accepts only a few, one of which was the narrator John. The story of Owen Meany is a story about how the life of one person makes another believe in God!

But the book is difficult to call exclusively religious, and the narrator himself plays a huge role in this. The fact is that John Irving, through the words of his character, John Wilrayt, expresses his disapproval of the political and social disposition prevailing in American society, Kennedy’s military intervention in Vietnam, Johnson’s inability to solve pressing problems; the general enthusiasm of youth for military ideas, reinforced by the impact of marijuana; the harmful influence of television on a person’s consciousness, etc. These are just some of the factors that have influenced the author’s general disappointment in American society, not to mention moral impoverishment, political games and the decline of the institution of the church.

Density of Symbolism

It should be noted that the book is deeply saturated with symbolic images and motifs. It is symbolic that the murder of his friend’s mother turned out to be the catalyst of Owen Meany’s faith in God’s own destiny. But Owen would have believed it, did not he kill her accidentally during the match? Would there be anything else, no less significant, in his life? Or maybe the revelations of his parents about the unusual appearance of the boy to the light made an indelible impression? Be that as it may, there are no answers to these questions; the writer does not offer such an alternative branch of reasoning.

But John Irving skilfully plans and composes the plot of the work, and the already mentioned saturation with symbolism definitely adds a touch of mystery. It is symbolic that the throw of the ball into the basketball ring, which friends practiced at any opportunity, served as the fulfillment of God’s will. It is symbolic that the dream of death seen by Owen comes true with the exact coincidence of dates, details and circumstances, but even Owen Meany himself could not consider the content of this vision beyond the outer shell. It is symbolic that John Wilrayt, thanks to the fate of Owen Meany and the power of his faith, takes God into his soul, and later draws the blind faith of the constantly doubting pastor, but by means of an ordinary rally. It is symbolic that…

No less symbolic are the images of characters from the writer’s pen. John Irving certainly divides them into “good and evil,” he gives them clear characteristics: a cowardly postman, a doubting priest, a lascivious sister, insane brothers, an artful director of a school, etc. But such traits do not include the character’s character, because each of them appears quite alive, full of emotions and emotions. The writer gives two boys (Owen and John) the most valuable – the strongest friendship that even the accidental death of the mother cannot destroy because of another. On the contrary, it bonds their bonds! One is ready to bake the other for the rest of his days, sacrifice his potential and future, give the most expensive of the things available… Even cut off his finger and rid himself of future dangers.

I assure you that John Irving has put much deeper ideas into his book than their interpretations that I am trying to pour out on this page, and in order to be able to communicate them without loss of motivation, meaning and ideological realization, it is necessary to have a talent of more serious coverage than the author of these lines.

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