Floating Armless

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In A Prayer for Owen Meany John Ivring uses several symbols to explore the themes of fate and divine control. Ivring describes several objects and characters as being armless to represent a sacrifice made by a divine influence. Owen Meany in particular is often described as being above the ground to represent what he sees as his position as God’s instrument. Owen is first described as being held in the air when attending Sunday school(p 2). Later in the book John repeatedly picks up Owen and raises him to a basketball hoop so he can practice a slam dunk that becomes known as “the shot.” Before Owen’s death he is once again lifted to a high window using the shot in order to protect a group of children below (p 612). Finally Owen floats above the pine trees after his death (p 615). In part, Owen’s repeated flight is practical. Practicing the shot gave Owen and John the ability to place the grenade on the windows. However, Owen’s flight, particularly after his death also alludes that Owen is closer to the heavens and reinforces his role as “God’s instrument (p 87)”. After Owen’s death, John points out that “…There were forces that contributed to our illusion of Owen’s weightlessness; they were forces that we failed to believe in-and they were also lifting up Owen Meany, taking him out of our hands. (p 617)” This suggests that Owen was being lifted be divine forces from childhood until they lifted him above the palm trees. Owen was confident throughout the novel throughout the novel that nothing happens by accident and that he was fated to die on July 8, 1968(p 607). Owen feels his death is a part of God’s plan and does not attempt to change his fate. This ties into the theme of divine control. He was carried by spiritual beings through his life to fulfill his role in saving the children. In A Prayer for Owen Meany many characters seem to suffer amputations. The Indian chief Watahantowet draws an armless totem when he sells his land(p 8). Owen amputates the stuffed armadillo’s claws to represent his guilt and grief after accidentally killing Tabitha Wheelwright (p 86). The Meanys’ nativity set features a one-handed Joseph and a three-legged cow (p 183). Tabitha’s dressmaker’s dummy is armless until Owen gives it the arms he removed from a statue of Mary Magdalene (p 553), one of which is later separated again from the dummy (p 555).

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