The definition of believe is to be confident about something. The more confidence one has in things, the more individualistic they become. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving shows that allowing oneself to believe in something defies mediocrity. Owen Meany is so far from mediocre that he seems to rise above others. His beliefs in all sorts of things help him to achieve this status. Owen’s chief belief throughout the novel is that he is “GOD’S INSTRUMENT” (337) His belief in this causes him to feel strongly about faith and religion.
Throughout Sunday school and church, Owen always appeared to know more than others, or have stronger feelings. Even at a young age he felt these things, like “that the Catholics had committed an UNSPEAKABLE OUTRAGE” (22) and that their family’s move from the church “was a move that risked eternal damnation. ” (22) As children, after the death of Johnny’s mother, the reactions of Johnny and Owen differed greatly.
Johnny reacted as any normal child would: sad, upset, and in need of a friend. Owen, however, reacted in a much more symbolic way, taking the claws off of Johnny’s armadillo.
Johnny didn’t realize at first why this had been done, but Owen later explained that his “hands were the instrument, God has taken” (337) his hands and he is God’s instrument. Owen’s belief in this is so strong that Dan is incredulous. He finds it amazing that a child can come up with meaning such as that. In this way, Owen is far from mediocre. Owen is extremely opinionated. His article in the school paper under the pen name of The Voice proves that. The entire school becomes enthralled with his incredible and insightful posts.
Owen is the only person who could create that kind of a commotion with the written word. His belief in his superiority as God’s instrument is extremely apparent through this column and through the transaction between him and the headmaster, who tells him he must see a therapist. Owen prays to God to “forgive them; for they know not what they do. ” (381) Almost as strongly as his belief that he is “GOD’S INSTRUMENT” (337), Owen believes that he must die in Vietnam to save children. If ever anyone wasn’t mediocre, it would be Owen as he acts when he’s figuring out what he elieves he must do. Whilst attending A Christmas Carol, the audience receives quite a scare from Owen when he suddenly is “jumping to his feet and screaming” (243) after seeing his name and death date on the papier-mache gravestone. His firm belief that what presented itself on the gravestone was real moved him far from mediocrity. His scream of terror was far from normal. Owen also sees, in a dream this time, what he has to do to save the children. He makes Johnny continually practice their basketball shot, even though Johnny does not know why.
Owen claims “IT’S NOT FOR A GAME” (303) when Johnny tries to ask what the point is. Owen continues to push the normal limits of practice to complete their shot in less than four seconds. When the feat is finally completed, Owen is ready to try less than three seconds. He shows Johnny “what a little faith can do. ” (340) Owen’s limitless faith allows the shot to eventually be completed in two seconds, saving the children. Although practicing the shot over and over may have made him seem very strange and far from the norm, it helped him in the end.
Owen also persistently practices, trains, and begs to be placed in a combat branch so he can get to Vietnam, where he believes his task is supposed to take place. His effort is recognized by his superiors and by his friends. It’s rare to see someone work so hard in hopes to be placed in battle, where death is a very serious option. Finally, Owen transcends what is normal in his refusal to want to change himself. He recognizes the very apparent fact that people think his voice and his appearance are strange, yet he cares not to change them. Owen “thinks his voice is for a purpose. (190) Instead of feeling let down at the fact that Johnny’s cousins play rough games and it would be hard for a person of Owen’s size and stature to partake, Owen decides they can play less rough games. Mr. McSwiney, the vocal coach, claims that Owen must have surgery to fix his voice. Owen, however, claims that he doesn’t “want to have surgery” (351) and that he doesn’t expect his “voice to change. ” (351) Instead of trying to hide his voice, Owen flaunts it. In his column for the school paper, he posts in all capital letters, very similar to the way he speaks. This makes others see him as different.
He doesn’t believe he should change himself and he believes God has a reason for everything. As a result, Owen is elevated to a status above others, far from mediocre. John Irving does a splendid job in the creation of such a character. By surrounding Owen with characters who do nothing extraordinary, Owen’s strange physical and mental properties create an extraordinary person. Through Owen, it can be seen that one can defeat the lull of mediocrity by finding something to believe in. Passion is the key in escaping the doldrums and finding a way towards individuality, even if it isn’t leading to the path of becoming another Jesus Christ.
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