Superstitions In John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany

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In Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, Owen’s superstitions manifest themselves in a symbolic manner throughout the text. Particularly in the significance he places on one’s hands. After he accidently kills John’s mother while hitting a baseball at a Little League game, Owen removes the arms from John’s toy armadillo. This leaves John, and the reader, in confusion until Owen declares that “God has taken [John’s] mother. My hands were the instrument. God has taken my hands. I am God’s instrument” (Irving 87). The hands were symbolic of Owen’s hands, which he deems responsible for the murder of John’s murder. Rather than wallow in sadness, he has a moment of clarity in which realizes that his hands are simply players in God’s grand design. He is…show more content…
They have been friends since their childhood and when Owen mistakenly kills John’s mother, their friendship actually grows stronger. During the Vietnam War draft, John begins to worry that he will be called to serve as his graduate student deferment will shortly expire. However, Owen does his research and discovers a potential soldier can escape combat if a portion of one his digits is missing. In an effort to save John from being forced to go, Owen uses a diamond knife from his father’s quarry to cut off a part of John’s finger. In the most obvious way, this displays Owen’s clear affection for John. During the “surgery”, Owen warmly reassures John that “I love you … Nothing bad is going to happen to you – trust me” (Irving 509). He did not want John to have to suffer from the horrors of the Vietnam War and he knew the most pain-free way to make sure John received a deferment from combat. However, in another light, it is possible Owen was trying to postpone his own death. He claims in each of his visions about his demise, John is there. At the time of John’s amputation, Owen was yearning to fight in Vietnam and John would be allowed to stay in the United States. Without John being present, Owen’s vision would not be able to come true, in a sense prolonging Owen’s life. While this interpretation is unlikely to be Owen’s motivation, it is interestingly to view the situation through this

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