A Prayer for Owen Meany
In A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving, Irving portrays the relationship between faith and doubt within the struggles of Johnny, which in the end alienates him from a normal, human life because the miraculous moments he has encountered changed him and vanishes all his doubt. However, it demonstrates that he is living in the past, which has causes grief and anger for his lost best friend, which has kept him from living normally.
In the beginning of the novel, it demonstrates that not only is Johnny “doomed” to remember Owen, but shows that his past continues to haunt him; although, he gains faith, the tragic events shape him into a whole different person (1). The beginning of the novel also shows that within Johnny’s past, he is faced with not only one tragic event, but two which affects him as he struggles growing up: his mother’s death and Owen’s. Owen’s death shows a prominent effect on Johnny’s new wisdom, but has led him to living a bitter life when looking back at his experiences. Owen shapes Johnny into the man he is presently and shows a parallel resemblance in criticism of religion and politics. Johnny in his childhood was skeptical, yet apathetic towards Owen’s beliefs, specifically that he is “God’s instrument.” Johnny’s doubtful childhood juxtaposes Owen’s belief, but in the end demonstrates a relationship which ties to the overall meaning of the novel. His experiences, although, keeping him from living a normal life, allow him to witness a miraculous, yet tragic moment which he pictures as a miracle. Although he ultimately accepts Owen’s beliefs, he is not necessarily ready to let go of his best friend. Owen’s miraculous death has created a barrier from a normal life. Losing a loved one is extremely difficult and Johnny is still having trouble accepting his loss.
Throughout the novel, Johnny withdraws from his past, whereas in the present, he criticizes America and its conflicting wars. Although he is now a Canadian citizen, he is living a life full of anger and blames America and the Vietnam War for taking Owen. Because he criticizes and attacks blatantly, he appears more outspoken than he was as a child. This presents him from a living a normal life because he is focusing on the negative aspects of the miraculous moment he encounters; although it is tragic, Johnny tries to prevent God’s plan from happening to Owen. Later, he realizes that he could not and God is unstoppable. Canon Campbell points out to Johnny that he lives “in the past” and has a “head for history which has affected their relationship because Johnny was once “close to Canon Campbell,” but he is focusing more on the past and ignoring the present (203). This demonstrates that Johnny is retreating into his past memories which affect not only his relationship with others, but him as well.
Although Johnny retreats occasionally back in the present, Johnny’s life as a Canadian citizen shows a hint of ambiguity in terms of his emotional...