reallybigessay10edited - John Szmyd McAllister APE...

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John Szmyd 11/13/06 McAllister APE Inspiration of Faith In A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, the main element of the plot is John’s explanation of how Owen influences John’s belief in God’s existence. Irving begins narration of the novel, “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice— not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany” (Irving 1). On the other hand, as he gets older, John’s faith becomes less absolute “As for my faith: I’ve become my father’s son—that is, I’ve become the kind of believer that Pastor Merrill used to be. Doubt one minute, faith the next—sometimes inspired, sometimes in despair” (571). John struggles with the concept of faith versus doubt throughout the book even though Owen presents clear evidence of a higher power. Owen’s physical characteristics hint that he is not entirely human, or at least has abnormal qualities that the reader chooses to explain as God’s gifts or as deformities. John describes Owen’s weight as miraculous, and his voice “was not entirely of this world” (5). Also, Owen’s skin was ghostly, John says that “light was both absorbed and reflected by his skin, as with a pearl, so that he appeared translucent at times” (3). To a
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stranger, Owen’s appearance may seem perplexing, and once Owen talks, the stranger may consider him downright frightening. Owen’s Adam’s apple is in the position of permanent scream; Owen must yell in annoyingly nasal tones to be heard. These unique physical characteristics not only set him apart from his peers at an early age, but also give Owen the purpose to discover who he really is. Irving offers explanations to the earlier signs of Owen’s divine abilities and beliefs. For example, when Owen tells John that he saw the Angel of Death over Tabitha, John assumes that Owen merely mistook the dressmakers dummy for a ghostly figure, and that Owen’s feverish mind was playing tricks on him (101). Irving gives the reader realistic possibilities that explain Owen’s actions. Later in the story, when John almost topples down the stairs in the secret passageway, he hears Owen’s voice speak to him “unmistakably.” Though John is convinced that Owen spoke to him from the dead, it is Dan Needham who offers a realistic interpretation, saying, “‘Of course, we were both drunk— you, especially’ ” (517). Irving is not only concerned with John’s conflict with faith and doubt but also with the reader’s interpretation of the more unrealistic sequences of the narrative. Merrill is correct when he assures John that “doubt [is] the essence of faith, and not faith’s opposite” (111). John’s incredulous attitude toward Owen’s early signs of foresight and his prophetic nature make the novel seem more convincing. Since the reader does entertain doubts of Owen’s powers throughout the majority of the book,
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reallybigessay10edited - John Szmyd McAllister APE...

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